Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Voices of Moore Hall

This story is part of Angela Nickerson's Blogapalooza event over at her blog, Just Go!

After reading this little tale, click on over there and read some of the stories there and sign in to win prizes, including my own A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England and A Journey into Ireland's Literary Revival. In fact, this little story comes from my research for that book.

The Voices of Moore Hall

It was still a bit chilly the morning I pulled into the small parking area along the northern shore of Lough Carra, a large lake near the center of County Mayo in Ireland. I was there early that morning to catch the morning light on what had been the novelist George Moore's home until it burned down in 1923. George Moore was a colleague and friend of the poet William Butler Yeats and occasionally hosted the poet at this house. I had driven in to the area the night before from Galway and would continue on to Sligo in the afternoon.

Day was just dawning steel grey as I headed up the path toward the house. About halfway up the path, I looked back and could see my footprints in the wet grass leading up from the dark grey water of Lough Carra on the other side of my car. I continued on.

When I got to the house, I set up my tripod and began taking the photos I needed for my book. It was very quiet in the early morning and, as the sun rose, it did little against the thick wool blanket of clouds overhead. I continued to shoot the house and marveled at how a house this massive and historically important could just be left in the middle of the woods. There was a sign to the right of what had been the front entrance stating that the inside was off limits, and iron bars on the first floor doorways and windows, but other than that, there was nothing...and nobody around. Standing on the porch, under that granite portico, I also noticed that if I climbed over to the first story window from the porch, I could actually climb up through the window above the iron bars and drop into the interior of the house to explore.
Of course my curiosity got the better of me, and I climbed inside the house. It was tremendous to stand on the inside of the crumbling building and try to imagine what it was like, imagine the parties and grand gatherings of literary talent. Because the interior of the house was completely gutted, there was no way I could get up to the upper stories, but there was a stone staircase down to the basement, the dark basement.
Well, okay. I'm not going to say I wasn't scared at all, but I knew that was just plain silly. So, gripping my tripod like a baseball bat, I went down the stairs. And, I was right, there was nothing down there but what one visitor described as a "sinister labyrinth of arched corridors and dark rooms, their floors carpeted by a mulch of decaying leaves and squelching mud."
But, while I was down there, flashing my camera flash into corners not to take pictures, but to see what was there, I heard voices upstairs. Shit! I had left my camera bag and car keys just inside the front door in easy view. I immediately had visions of the local police hauling me off to jail for trespassing and having to call my publisher to spring me out. Or, perhaps worse, someone stealing my stuff and rental car. The voices were actually inside the house, so whoever it was either had the keys to the lock on the iron gate or had climbed through the window like I had.
I crept back up the stairs, again with my tripod in hand and peaked around the corner. Hmm. Nobody. The voices had gone. My stuff was there, untouched. Maybe the voices just sounded like they were in the house. I slipped back out the window and dropped back down to the grass below. I looked around the sides of the house -- still nobody. The group must have just come up to the front door, looked in the gate and then headed back down the path, disappearing before I got back upstairs. Whew, nothing to worry about.
I chuckled to myself and shouldered my camera bag to head back to my car. I guess I startle easily. Then, I noticed that my footprints in the wet grass were still the only ones leading up to Moore Hall. Nobody else had come this way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Story is in the Details

One of the temptations I fight against when I photograph literary sites is to try to get everything into one shot. So I will stand across the street and try to get the house and surrounding trees, like this photograph of The Wayside in Concord, Massachusetts.

Both the Alcott family (think Louisa May Alcott and her eccentric educational reformer father, Bronson) and Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in the house. The leaves were at peak and it is an okay picture – but it is just a house. It doesn’t tell the story. The top floor addition was put on by Nathaniel Hawthorne – he called it his “Sky Tower.” He built it as a quiet writing retreat and put in a writing desk where he could pen his stories while standing. So, this picture is better for telling that story:

However, the best part of this trip was that I had contacted the house beforehand and spoke with the ranger in charge, Bob Derry, who agreed to not only give me a personalized tour, but allowed me to take photographs on the inside. So, I was able to get the picture I ended up including in the book:

Although this is not my favorite photograph, I’m happy with the sense of writer and place it gives. I think it tells the story of writer and place in a way that the first one does not. It gives a sense of intimacy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Follow Me!

Hey - Follow Me!
Okay, I'm hoping it will be much easier to get people to follow my blog than to get this group moving in any one direction. I've added the "follow me" widget to my blog (look right) so you can sign up and check out new content when I post it. And with exciting new posts on photography, literary destination, green building, book marketing and the values of the two-two lineup for second-grade soccer, you will want to stay informed every step of the way.

It's a Party! A Blogapalooza Even!

My friend and fellow author, Angela Nickerson is hosting a blogapalooza party on October 29 at her blog:

I will be slipping a few copies of my books into her goody bag for the party and contributing a strange trip of my own to the tale-telling. Put it on the calendar and stop on by.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Best Way to Plan a Best Weekend

Make the most out of the clear, crisp fall weekends with a trip to Boston. Grab a copy of Walking Boston and get to Beantown for a true taste of fall. The trees at the Arnold Arboretum are near peak, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is getting ready to celebrate its opening, and the waters of the Charles River will soon be churning with thousands of oars of crew teams from around the world.

If you go, take a look at this website, Jim Flynn’s Best Weekends. It’s a compendium of great tips and insider information for prime places to get away for the weekend all along the Eastern Seaboard. If you just want to hand the planning off to someone else, Best Weekends will find and book the perfect hotel, make reservations at the right restaurant, and snag those theater tickets you’ve been wanting. So, with perfect walking weather and the fall leaves providing the show, get online to Best Weekends, and then get out on the streets.