Making a list

2013-07-23

Odds and ends in the water as I walked along the shore of Cape Cod Bay on a cold, damp morning a few years back.

I’M WALKING HOME. TAKING A YEAR TO WALK ACROSS THE COUNTRY. BRINGING YOU WITH ME OR MEETING YOU ALONG THE WAY… I’m making a list. When I am out on the road I will look at my list and say, ‘hey, today’s the Sampe Fest at the Grist Mill,’ or the Antiquarian Society’s annual fair, the town clean-up day, or the beginning of Balloon Wrangler Weekend (I made that last one up, though I’ve always thought balloon wrangling deserved greater attention). Plymouth is just big enough to have something going on every weekend, most every day. This weekend, to prove my point, there’s the Tidmarsh harvest, the Sampe Fest, a traditional succotash feast at the Harlow House. It’s not that being busy is special, in and of itself: it is that Plymouth is bursting with the real, with the authentic, with the kinds of activities and events that from the inside create a feeling of community and from the outside, well yes, it’s cliche. Several people have told me that they don’t want me to go away for a year, that I add something to the community that will be missed, perhaps especially the perspective I bring to the local news (If you’re not from Plymouth you should know that I write for the local ‘mackerel wrapper,’ a nearly 200-year old newspaper named, solemnly enough, The Old Colony Memorial). Of course that’s flattering, and though I am sure that there are a number of people that could quickly, and with little effort, take up my duties at the paper, those comments also drove home the point – to me – that I didn’t need to leave Plymouth behind on this walk. Actually that was always part of my master plan (fiendish laughter), to take the town with me, literally on my back, as I walked. My intention of course is not to take artifacts of the town with me, tucked away in my backpack, but to fill my head and each day on the road with the people of Plymouth (1 for each day of my year-long walk). To have a person, a friend or family member of important person from my life representing each day of the walk was one of the first ideas that came to me when I was seized with this feverish idea a year or so ago. And so when I heard first from Sharl, and then from others, that my absence would be felt, it did not take me long to realize that I could take not only the memories and visages and wisdom of people from my life, and largely from Plymouth, with me, but I could take the town itself as well. The list I am talking about is like the list of events, the ‘briefs,’ birth announcements, event listings and the like that take up much of the space in the Old Colony each week and fill up – like a stack of pancakes at a church breakfast – the soul of Plymoutheans (or, Pilgrims, as I like to call town residents). I could make a list – I am making that list – of what goes on in town throughout the year. And as I walk across the country I will at least reflect, and perhaps take note in some fashion, on what is going on that day in my hometown while I am far away. I may be on the outskirts of Tonopah, New Mexico on December 5, 2018, packing up from a night spent under the desert sky and before I leave I will note that ‘today, in my hometown, they’re having the annual tree lighting in Town Square.’ As the sun comes up over the mesa (is there actually a mesa in Tonopah, I don’t know, yet) I will reflect on the caroling and the horse-drawn wagons and, in the past few years, the Jingle Bells 5K that goes rolling through the downtown, the hot chocolate at the Phil headquarters, the beauty of the new common in front of the restored 1820 Courthouse. Perhaps I might even talk with friends back home, friends who will tell me ‘the news.’ So I’m making a list. I’m leaving nothing behind. I’m bringing everything with me, tucked into a metaphorical backpack, as I walk through your town and reflect, with you I hope, about all the things you love about your town.