Welcome to part II of our New England trip. To set the proper mood I’ll start with the ever classic…..
T’was a dreary day in New England.
Ila and I took the commuter rail from Boston to Salem. The constant shower and angry wind ensured every inch of me got soak in spite of my best effort to protect myself. Rest assured Ila was warm and dry all day. The train ride was a relief from the storm, but the station in Salem was under construction which meant an unsavory detour in said weather. With my head down I forged my way into town, only catching a glimpse of the passing shops and cafés.
The Peabody Museum was recommended if the the weather was bad. It was a small victory when I found it at the end of a modern walking mall full of “Witch supply” Shops and tarot readers. All loudly advertising the enchantment everyone flocks there for.
We spent more time in the lobby making art, then shuffling through the collections that I paid $18 to view. Oh well, it gave us a dry place to regroup and figure out what we wanted to see here. The museum Concierge asked me that when I grabbed a few area maps. That was tough, what DID I come here to see? It was close enough to Halloween that this place should have a cornucopia of entertainment. However, I already knew the manufactured hype that was geared towards spooking tourist wasn’t going to do it for me. I answered simply “old stuff”. He absently swished his hand in the direction to the back of the museum and plainly stated there was an old cemetery of some sort behind the museum. Ok.
So, behind the towering museum, and rows of new retail space, there was a cemetery. Along with a few old dwellings. Also, In the middle of a stone walled courtyard with, what looked like a row of two seater benches was a patch of grass roped off. It took me a minute, but all at once it washed over me. This was the site of the very thing that made Salem what it is.
The Salem witch trials.
These were not benches, but memorial markers of the 20 innocent women and children who were sentenced to death.
Was this patch of grass where some of them burned to death? Or hung? The dwellings were their prison while they waited scared and cold for their trial. It was all too sad.
A goth couple entered quietly and crossed to a stone “bench” to pay their respects to what they think is the matriarch of their subculture. Who am I to judge?
Look, these people were not witches. They were your mothers, sisters and daughters. Your neighbors and friends. Your acquaintances. Some of them where outcast of their small community. Most important for us to understand is that they were victims of ignorance, abuse of authority and fear mongering. What’s worse is that we still haven’t learned from this. We continue to persecute each other and ourselves. The cycle continues, some cases worse then others.
I was asked later that day by a fortune telling Uber driver if I believe in ” All that”. What? Witches & Magic? I believe there is a lot about this place, this space in time and inside our brains that we don’t understand. However, the feeling in Salem is not magical the way myth and legend tells us it is. I just felt a long history of sorrow glossed over by a lot of commercial glitz to attract tourist. It all seems garish when you separate fact from fiction. I don’t blame them though, they are just giving people what they want to see.
As it turned out, I saw exactly what a came to see. The blatant reality of the destruction that FEAR can cause when left unchecked.
I’ve been afraid of a lot in my life, so this was big. What is fear any way? This invisible force that shakes us like the wind shakes a giant tree. It’s an emotion. That’s it. Guess who creates and controls emotions? Me. And you of course. So, while everything I said before may not seem like a message of hope. It is. Fear is ours to dismiss if it threatens to control us or harm others around us. Be the good.
On that note, Happy Halloween! Give a wink to all the dark and macabre that is on parade in jest tonight.