Darlington School: Private Boarding School in Georgia 'Getting It:' My East Coast Author Tour
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‘Getting It:’ My East Coast Author Tour

John Cox | October 2, 2014 | 659 views

I must admit it was a little creepy. We weren’t really lost. We just didn’t know exactly how to get out. The light was starting to fade, the roads weren’t well marked, and we were surrounded by tombstones.

I had taken my daughters to Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, R.I., to see H.P. Lovecraft’s grave as part my Thatcher Master Teacher grant. Swan Point Cemetery was officially founded in 1846 but has graves that date back to 1722. With over 200 acres of beautiful foliage and Victorian statuary, everywhere we turned there were tall weeping angels, intricately carved catafalques and mausoleums with massive staircases. As we finally came around a bend that we recognized and made our way back by Lovecraft’s grave we saw a man with long black hair and a long black beard kneeling by the grave doing… something.

It was at that moment that I got it. As Lovecraft himself said, “It is not because of anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined.”

When I applied for the Thatcher grant, I wasn’t thinking about reading more research, studies or critiques; I wanted to get a feeling for what drove authors to write what they wrote. I wanted to be in the places where these authors had been and try to understand the mindset that went into these wonderful works.

I truly believe that all writing is informed by where and when it is written, so I applied for an East Coast author tour to find these “Oh, I get it now” moments. I wasn’t sure this would even work, but I wanted to give it a try. Surprisingly, I had at least one of these moments almost everywhere I visited.

I swam in Walden Pond and hiked up to the foundation of Thoreau’s original cabin. As I stood looking over the pond and hearing the wind rustling through the leaves I thought, “Oh, I get it.” I felt like I knew why he wanted to immerse himself in nature and live deliberately.

As I stood between a replica Whaling ship and original whaling skiff in the New Bedford Whaling Museum, I got it. The boredom of being on a tiny ship like that for months or years at a time, interspersed with the terror of hunting in a boat that’s less than a third the size of your prey.

From the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va., to Emily Dickinson’s House in Amherst, Mass., to Robert Frost’s place in Franconia, N.H., I had the opportunity to live great literature. I’d like to thank the Thatcher Foundation for their generosity in providing the grants that let me experience this wonderful journey.

As Thoreau once said, “The world is but a canvas for our imagination.”