PAINT THE TOWN READ: Authors Ridge at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts

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Concord has been home to its fair share of notable authors. In fact, Sleepy Hollow—one of Concord’s cemeteries—actually has a spot called Authors Ridge, where many of these authors were buried.

I came in through one of the gates near the town centre, which resulted in a bit of a walk. There are plenty of signs around Sleepy Hollow to help direct you to Authors Ridge, but going through Authors Gate (pictured above) will give you the most direct route.

IMG_4913Because of the way I entered Authors Ridge, I came upon the Thoreau family plot first. It’s pretty easy to tell who the authors are in the family plots, since devoted fans have left mounds of pens, pencils, and notes (and, in Henry David Thoreau’s case, a pumpkin) around the individual’s grave.

IMG_4914Next up was the Alcott family plot. Having just come from Orchard House, where we learned all about the Alcott family history, my family and I spent a while deciphering the initials on each headstone to figure out where everyone was. Louisa, author of Little Women, wasn’t hard to find given the gifts left for her.

IMG_4916The Hawthorne family is in a chained-off area, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from leaving a few tributes to Nathaniel Hawthorne. You might have noticed in these photos that there have also been a bunch of pebbles on each headstone. I don’t know if this is common knowledge but I didn’t understand, so I looked it up. There’s a long history about the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves. As far as I can tell, it boils down to two things: a marker that you’ve been there and you’re remembering that person; and a method of kind of weighing down a soul and helping keep that person around.

IMG_4917The biggest of all the authors’ headstones belongs to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who has an entire giant slab of rock set aside. As I knelt down to get a picture, I caught sight of one of the notes, which read, ‘Thank you. You have changed my life. For that I am eternally grateful.’

The pens and pencils, the pebbles on the headstones—those all serve as reminders about the people whose lives have been touched by these authors in some way. But for every person with a fleeting connection, there is someone with a profound connection to the words penned by Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Henry David Thoreau. The mark left on the world by these people is truly awe-inspiring. It was a profound honour to walk the same streets that they’ve walked, and my trip to Concord will stay with me for years to come.

You can see more Paint the Town Read posts as they’re uploaded on my Instagram account with the hashtag #caapaintthetownread.

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