The decision to go to Bethel - a most beautiful mountainous village in the western part of the State of Maine, USA, was taken by Krish, our youngest son-in-law. The news of the pleasure trip to Bethel brought loud cheers to our grandsons-Kuval and Kaustubh. While they were over-excited, we, their grandparents, had absolutely no notion about Bethel. We , of course, had a desire to see Boston—the old historical city, full of cultural and educational institutions like Boston University, Harvard and MIT, the Museum of Fine Arts and the likes. Finally, it was decided to combine Boston with Bethel in a single trip.
Then a small problem cropped up. The dates of the trip were clashing with the dates of Durga Puja, the greatest Bengali fest. We would then have to forgo a part of the Puja fest of New Jersey , our base , for that year.
"Oh! That will not matter much," cried the two brothers and that decided the matter. We started for Boston on 27th September'2009. All along the road, the magical season of fall was just beginning to splash patches of red and gold among the lush green foliage.
After about three and half an hour of a scenic drive, we reached Boston in the afternoon. Depositing the car in a parking space, we rushed to the Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts in greater Boston. but all of a sudden it started pouring and despite our raincoats and umbrellas, we were soaked to the bone. But that did not deter us. We went round the Campus along with other tourist groups.
Initially called 'NEW COLLEGE', this institution was renamed HARVARD COLLEGE on MARCH 13,1639. It was named after John Harvard, a young clergyman from Southwark. He was not a rich man but he bequeathed half of his estate (779 pound Sterling ) and four hundred books to the college thus ensuring its continued operation. Visiting the statue of John Harvard was almost a pilgrimage. Every visitor, either from the East or West, stopped there and paid homage to him in awe and respect We were no exception. Most of the tourists touched the Founder's feet as a result of which the tip of his shoes looked brightly polished like silver.
On our way back we dropped in the HARVARD UNIVERSITY Souvenir Store and picked up a few T-Shirts with the word HARVARD printed on the front side of it and some other gifts. Outside, near a Mall there were heaps of large pumpkins on the pavement for sale heralding the advent of Halloween.
We checked in a hotel, put our luggage in and went out again for dinner. We were dining with an Indian family that evening. On the way back, we had an opportunity to look at the quiet and laid back campus of the Boston University along the bank of the river Charles .The high-rise buildings of the University were still blazing in different colours which mystically reflected on the water of the river. One or two night tram cars were moving lazily, reminding one of the old colonial days.
Next day we finished our breakfast early since the itinerary was heavy. First in the list was the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. The front gate of the University was stunningly imposing. Hundred of students -white, black and brown, were moving around freely.
Founded by William Barton Rogers in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, the University adopted the European university model and emphasized laboratory instruction from an early date. Its current 168 acre campus opened in 1865 and extends over 1 mile (1.6 km ) along the northern bank of the Charles River basin. Many scientists including 75 Nobel Laureates are currently or have previously been affiliated with the University.
For some time we went around the various departments. Then we came back to the bus stop in front of the MIT.
Our next stop was the Museum of Fine Arts. Ananda Kentish Comaraswamy, a Ceylonesse botanist-turned connoisseur and critic of Indian Arts- turned-philosopher-turned-historian, had once been the Curator of the Museum. As ill luck would have it, despite repeated attempts we could not locate it nor could we find out the place of Boston Tea Party. However, the loss was partially made good by a visit to the Harbour Children Museum. The ground floor of the Museum extended into the sea. Several chairs were laid outside for visitors. One had a beautiful view of the sea, the sky and the busy harbour. Countless white sea-gulls were flying around or floating on the water moving up and down with the gentle waves or walking on the floor for food. Their constant squeals still ring into our ears.
Around 5 in the evening, we made for our final destination--Bethel. A two hour drive trook us up to New Hampshire. On both the sides of the highway on the plains, the trees and woods had taken scarlet, red and orange hues. The fall had so many fantastic shades here. We were already in the State of Maine where the Fall season begins early and thousands of visitors flock here to see the changes of colours of the Nature.
From the map of the Maine on the wall of the Mall we could know that we were about half-way between Boston and Bethel.
The Sun had already set and darkness began to descend on earth as we drove through dense forest, hills and dales. Suddenly , the sky turned overcast and a drizzle started, accompanied with stormy wind . The road was deserted. Small town like Paris, Portland whirred past by the car window. At long last, we arrived in the hotel called The Sudbury Inn, 151, Main Street, Bethel, Maine at about 9.30 in the evening. The next day dawned into a clear morning. The entire area was flooded with golden sunshine and the breeze was cool and pleasant.
There some godliness in the name Bethel. It means "abode of God". Draped in calm greenery the village , nestled within a ring of mountain peaks, justifies its name.
We went out for exploring the surroundings. After a while the forest canopy surrounded us. There were wild flowers, birds and animals around us. Following the trails, we walked a bit and found a big cluster of blue flowers on the slope and at the foot of the hill. This reminded us of Wordsworth's famous poem "LUCY GRAY" :
A violet by a mossy stone /Half-hidden from the eye! /Fair as a star, when only one /Is shining in the sky.
It is only the poets and painters who lead us to see the landscapes in different ways. Only one must have eyes to see and the heart to enjoy the beauty.
From there we proceeded to the Cross Country Ski Centre to see the Skiing Trails. There are about 3 trails/tracks coming down the slopes of the mountain. It seemed three giant mowers had mowed the mountain for creating the Trails/Tracks. Krish with his sons climbed up one of the Trails but we remained at the base where a small base lodge comprising a rest room and some offices were being cleaned for the upcoming Skiing Festival.
On our return journey, we were wandering aimlessly along the forest roads. Suddenly we saw a clean paved area with a small structure in the forest. That was in fact a parking space and the small building was the booking office of the Reserve Forest Office for going into the Forest or the waterfall which was very close to it. There was also a prominent Notice Board explaining the significance of the place and the rules for hiking or biking.
We could see the trails leading to the deep forest but we did not proceed towards that. Rather we were more interested to see the waterfall. The running stream which may a branch of the Sunday River was narrow and naturally the fall was slim but belonged to the glacial period. Due to the impact of the fall for ages, the boulders and stones had weird and crazy looks —some were twisted or totally worn out. As a result it has become a paradise for the Geologists and painters, especially in Autumn. In fact, we saw quite a few of them. On the other side of the stream, a painter, absorbed in her trade made quite a picture herself against background of flaming oak, maple, birch and pines, She was, of course, well protected by an Alsatian dog.
It was already three in the afternoon and we were driving back to the hotel. But hardly had we moved a mile or so when we were arrested by the beauty of a crystal clear Lake -the Twitchell Pond. The hunger of the eye prevailed over the hunger of the stomach. All of us got down and went to the bank of the Pool. Its still water mirrored the whole mountain standing beside it. A boat was anchored there as if to complete the picture.
Next day we finished our breakfast early and went out to have a last lingering look at Bethel. The morning was brighter. The sun was sweet and the air invigorating. The grasses on both sides of the Main Street were soft with dew. One by one, the shops were being opened. Talking this and that we came to the end of the Street where the Rivendell House ( Bed & Breakfast) was standing.
We left Bethel the next morning with a promise to come back again. After all, it is the abode of God . Someday may be we shall be back again to look in her clear blue sky and her waters mirroring the mountains.
Photo courtesy: writer