Much that is familiar inevitably rises up around me. Much that is familiar rises up within me.
It is a storied landscape into which I drive, even if the goal is a restaurant bar where a friend from high school will stand me a beer in early celebration of my birthday. He and I determined long ago that Concord was close to the midpoint for us journeying from our homes. The ease of finding Concord and finding parking and finding places to walk and talk and eat can partially account for its appeal.
As well, it suits our age. We are among those growing up in the Sixties for whom there was no holier name than Thoreau and no prober of the troubled psyche better than the grim Hawthorne.
Rob and I retreat to Concord as to a place where ideas and the lives lived in accordance with them have enjoyed a venerable arena.
We are men in our middle sixties, over-educated and literary and religious in a Walker Percy kind of way.
Putting down my brown ale last Sunday afternoon, I looked up from a bar plate of monkfish and asparagus as Rob finished a surprising admission. Against the increasingly solitary thing that his own life has become as children move away, he commented with admiration on how I have repeatedly put myself out there.
However I remember recent birthdays – flowers that one suitor sent me, the driftwood fire that a South Shore gentleman had built on the beach, a gray plaid flannel shirt from a Mainer loyal to LL Bean – Rob was serious in his respect. He did not suspect that I could look over his shoulder and see where I had sat with still another friend just a day or two earlier, immersed in nuanced confidences and a familiar wonder.
I made my way, recognizing as I did a long-ago longing. I think I had always hoped to be just such a solitary man at this time of day. I think I had always dreamed of walking Authors Ridge at this time in my life.