Tell Us Your Tales
"One Autumn night, in Sudbury town…"
These words begin the famous collection of poetry, Tales of a Wayside Inn, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and published in 1863. Longfellow was motivated by stories he heard from his friends in Cambridge, MA, who inspired the characters in his poems, about their time at The Wayside Inn, and his own visit in 1862.
What personal or fictional stories might you begin with this opening line? What poetry flows when you think of Sudbury in autumn? What images or sounds do Longfellow's words inspire? How does the current pandemic impact your feelings of fall in New England?
In the Fall of 2020 we invited our friends and followers to share poetry, prose, and media that begins with this opening line and received the submission below.
Olivia Troiano (Age 11, Ephraim Curtis Middle School)
One Autumn night, in Sudbury town a girl and her friend walk up to a reasonably sized red tavern, with the thin paint peeling in some places, matching the Autumn leaves that have fallen on the ground. So small and insignificant, the girl thinks about the crinkly and thin leaves. They walk towards the tavern, who’s roof is covered in brown and black shingles, almost reminiscent of the cold winter months where the trees are brown and bare. The lifelessness of winter is breathtaking, and while the cool fall breeze touches the ground and the sky, rustling the yellow, red, and orange leaves, she ponders why the world is like this. But, even in the darkest of winters, the summer always returns to give life, happiness, and joy. The two friends approach the small door and open. Inside, there are men and women drinking beer and laughing, and it seems that all is well. However, if you really look, and see, and feel, there is a sad aura around each person. They have come here to forget about the troubles of the world, and escape. The girl notices a powerful wind that blows around the trees and almost picks off the leaves as if they were cherries on a cherry tree. She feels a rush from the crack in the door. The air almost speaks, telling her to live here and now, in this moment, here with her friend, in an old tavern, the Wayside Inn.
Luke Vedora (Age 5, Peter Noyes Elementary School)
The Old Lady Who Got Lost in the Forest
One Autumn night, in Sudbury town… an old lady got lost in the forest when she had decided to go for a walk. She continued to walk when something strange happened. There was a circle of trees and she was stuck at a dead end. She did not know her way back home. Then she started to think her way out of the forest. A snow owl came along and helped her get home. She gave the snow owl some food for helping her get home. The old lady and the snow owl became friends and she was never lost in the forest again!
One Autumn night in Sudbury town,
My taxi pulled up to the Inn.
"This can't be right," I thought with a fright,
But my frown soon turned to a grin
When the cabbie assured me that this was the place
And I couldn't believe my luck--
That my company had said that here I was to lay my head
For by the Inn's charms I was struck.
I looked wide-eyed at the lobby and went up to my room,
Its canopy bed in pastel tones,
And the drawer of the chest held notes from past guests
So of course I left one of my own!
At breakfast, my co-workers also were charmed
By this place in every way,
Pumpkin muffins galore, and we still wanted more,
Because there's nothing like this in L.A.!
Back home I showed photos to my mother-in-law,
When suddenly she gasped and then said
"My senior prom was there but my date took a dare
And fell into the grist mill instead!"
Many years later, my husband and I
Returned for a very sweet stay.
We spent a lovely few nights, saw historical sites,
And he swears he heard Jerusha play!
The Wayside Inn is second to none
In beauty, charm, and allure.
Its walls full of history, its drawers full of mystery,
Long may it thrive and endure!
Sally Purrington Hild
November 2, 2020
One autumn night
in Sudbury town
the moon shone wide,
the day-din died down.
There walked I,
finding my way
toward home with my thoughts
replaying the day.
The face-mask I’d worn
now slipped toward my chin
as alone I stepped on
and away from The Inn.
There were just a few cars
in the large parking lot
The Old Barn stand stood quiet
‘mums rustling in their pots.
I walked a bit further
up the road near the field
shadowed trees stretching outward
‘cross the meadow revealed.
With crisp leaves underfoot
and the evening-scented air
I pondered the weight of the world,
all the cares.
Soon I’d go home to my family
find out about their days.
Help with homework,
Sort out schedules,
Soothe their virus worries away.
But just for a moment
paused on The Wayside’s grounds
I listened in the quiet
Not a soul was around.
Tomorrow is Election Day.
Time for hope.
Hope for change.
With our votes we make history,
we must have a say.
Tomorrow is Election Day.
We’ve waited for so long,
What will be the outcome?
To whom will victory belong?
Turning back down the path
toward The Old Inn,
Yellow light from the windows
cast its glow from within.
For 300 years
The Inn witnessed the tides.
So much change.
March of time.
Yet democracy thrives.
One Autumn night, in Sudbury town, my husband, son, and I gathered around my phone to Facetime with my daughter. She was living in Thailand, teaching at a Buddhist international school, and we were all unsure of when we might next be together in the same room. Summer had come and gone without a visit and the prospect of us being together for any of the upcoming holidays was slim to none. I missed her dearly but knew there was no pointing in wishing for what could not happen. For the time being, seeing each other virtually would have to suffice.
The year was 2020 and it was certainly the most unexpected and unusual year I had experienced in my lifetime. Just seven months prior (though it felt like years) the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest and forever changed, well… everything. Businesses and schools had to temporarily shut down while we all learned to adjust to a world of remote working and learning, contactless delivery, social distancing, and mask wearing. And while it was a challenging shift, there were benefits to this “new normal.” More time together for those living under one roof. Discovering all sorts of ways to shift activities outdoors. Having impeccably clean hands. However, the disadvantages outweighed the advantages. Spending too much time together living under one roof. The impending winter when many outdoor activities would have to come to an end. The inability to touch friends and family not in our immediate household. Not being able to travel and spend time with the ones we love who live in faraway places like Thailand.
My family is fortunate. The pandemic took the lives of some of those we know, but not those most near and dear to our hearts. We have not been in the unimaginable situation of having to say goodbye to a hospitalized loved one over a phone or experiencing the loss of multiple deaths within one family. For that we are thankful. Unfortunately, winter is not yet here. It is only autumn here in Sudbury and time remains for our lives to be touched in ways we cannot imagine.