Helen-Chantal Pike

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I am Thoreau (and so can you!)

March 19, 2013

Tags: Marion Winik, Asbury Park's Glory Days, Sy Safransky, Boston, The Sun, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Writer, The Notches, Upper Connecticut River Valley

Trading Places: tall trees for concrete canyons
Two years. Two months. Two days.

I might not make.

That’s the record Thoreau set with his little experiment of living by himself in a cabin by the pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts. A little more than 780 days. Me, I’m 420 days living in rural America, and I’m not sure I’m even going to match his record.

The only wiggle room in my strategy comes from knowing that every 48 hours in the course of gathering experiences for Walden: Or, Life in the Woods" Henry David hot-footed it into downtown Concord to catch up on what was going on in the world.

I so get that.

I hadn’t made it much past thirteen months of living in the untamed Upper Connecticut River Valley when I desperately needed to trade Thoreau’s “tonic of wildness” for a tonic of the cosmopolitan kind. Out the apple orchard, across the river, and down past the weather-challenging Notches I went to get to New England’s cultural capital, Boston.

Never mind that I drove more than three hours and straight into a coastal snow storm heavily pelting the Massachusetts shoreline. I wanted bright lights, wide sidewalks, razor-sharp ripostes to overhear, menus filled with foreign food, live music, dancing men…

Okay, I’m fantasizing there.

But one of the reasons for my last-minute decision was a professional thirst to reconnect with folks I had once bent elbows with, members of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. My desire to convivial bliss was further helped along by the fact that two of my favorite magazines had high visibility at this conference and book fair: The reborn The Writer (no longer my father’s stodgy magazine, thank God) and my new literary love The Sun.

With the latter came a chance finally to meet without any intermediaries a truly naked – understand this as authentic − writer Marion Winik, a Sun contributor. In a more chaste form she wrote a mouth-watering food memoir for my book Asbury Park’s Glory Days: The Story of an American Resort.

Marion is a Wild Woman, just not the boreal kind. Hers is an urban ethos evolved during an era of experiences we’re not likely to see again. She also has a point of view about looking for love and acceptance that is universal, no matter where you live or which way you swing. And, she’s got a rip-snorter of a new memoir coming out in June that’s ripe with Asbury Park, NJ, memories.

Semi-spoiler alert: there’s a Santander episode in Highs in the Low Fifties: How I Stumbled through the Joys of Single Living that’s goes one better than the resident poltergeist.

Can’t wait? Visit her blog at Bohemian Rhapsody. Leave word I sent you.

If you have any juice with the people who run words! on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, tell them to book her. Or, ask Mike and Nancy at The ShowRoom if they’ll host a homecoming for Marion.

Saturday night at Brookline Booksmith Marion read along with Sun publisher Sy Safransky. I wasn’t sure what to make of someone a mere decade ahead of me in life. Like Marion, though, he was equally unfettered in delivering out loud what we silently read in his publisher’s notes: His honest lust and love for the woman to whom he’s been married 30 years. In the foreword to The Mysterious Life of the Heart: Writing from The Sun about Passion, Longing, and Love Sy explained the moment of realization that it was okay to write for publication how he, a man, felt. Vulnerable. Naked. Honest. It works for women, too. Maybe some day even for me.

Emotionally dry as a sponge, I soaked up everything I could that bright, cold Saturday two weeks ago. Now back in my woods, with a heavy snow falling on the eve of spring, I continue to wring out what I had absorbed. Like Thoreau, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

You can, too.




Comments

  1. March 20, 2013 8:26 AM EDT
    Helen. A fun article to read. As one who has spent all my life here in the North and just adapted without thinking to our climate changes I enjoy your thoughts and impressions. Hope you beat Thoreau's record bu then he didn't venture as far into the wild as you did.
    - Sharon
  2. April 10, 2013 3:07 PM EDT
    Though the sun shines not on my little postage stamp of woodland and earth today, this post warmed my soul and hydrated my spirit! 'The Sun' was once a favorite read. I'm reminded that in the storage room, there is a box filled with 12 years of Sun magazines and that it may be time to re-subscribe. My soul resonated with your longing for "convivial bliss" and after reading Marion Winik's 2 essays, I feel I've been asleep for 100years!! When did I go to sleep? Or, like the proverbial frog in the water, has an ever so gradual shrug of my shoulders under the weight of resigned futility dimmed the light to the point that I simply became immobile; hibernating in this remote woodland place I numbly and through a myoptic lense recognize as home. What now will I do with this glowing ember in my belly; this tickle, this wriggle of awakening awareness? Metaphorically, I'm feeling the delicious stretch and full being breath of a fully realized moment as I stand in the warmth of a spring day sun! I'm reminded that life's possibilities are infinite, only limited by my conscious awareness!!
    - wendy macdonald
  3. May 15, 2013 8:11 PM EDT
    Helen, I think Jerry was there too! He went as part of his job at the Academy of American Poets. Love reading your blog.
    - Judy Coletta