Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cooperstown: More than Just the Baseball Hall of Fame

Known as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the sport is themed throughout the main street shops, but there's so much more to this town.  From the haunted library, to the beautiful drive around Otsego Lake, to the smell of sweet sticky buns emanating from Schneider's Bakery, Cooperstown and its 2,500 inhabitants enjoy a quiet life, quiet in the winter that is.

In the summer, trolley's shuttle anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 visitors to the various shops, restaurants, bars and  the Hall of Fame on Main Street.  Families also come to fish, camp, bask in the warm sunshine and use Cooperstown as a jumping off point for explorations in to the nearby Adirondacks.  

A visit to the Village Library, housed in a beautiful mansion built in 1898, serving as the library, village offices and art gallery, has me drooling over their used book sale section, work by local artists and the building itself, including a wooden, 1930's baby change station in the ladies room, a newspaper rack from the 1940's and the original wooden staircases, landings, windows, fireplace and other accents.   

Finally tearing myself away from the library/offices/gallery and its wonderful history, adornments and friendly staff, an elderly woman on the front steps holds the door open for me as I leave, asking where I'm from.  Her question leads me to believe that while the population of this town isn't as small as Homer, winter visitors are clearly noticed.  When I tell her I'm from Alaska, she asks if what I thought of this year's Iditarod and I'm embarrassed to tell her that I didn't follow it since I've been out of state. A Cooperstown resident since 1962 and a retired schoolteacher, Meg Burns' face lights up and I'm treated to her play-by-play of the Iditarod race highlights and results.  

Her joy and excitement remind me of one of the many, many reasons that I love to travel: connecting with strangers. I've been experiencing many stranger's ties to Alaska throughout this trip, and these continue to surprise and delight me.  Soon they'll just be a natural occurrence, where I come to expect that people I meet five thousand miles away know someone in my home town.

Whether it's catching someone's eye on the train and having my smile met with a smile, or greeting a person also in line at a coffee shop that leads to hours of stimulating conversation, traveling with my heart open to the world I'm moving through reminds me of the community of man.  We are all here, walking through our lives, experiencing our own joys, our own sorrows, our accomplishments and our struggles.  It is easy to dismiss others, and it is just as easy to acknowledge them.  

Tomorrow, I can wake up and approach the day wondering how I can get what I need or want from others, or I can wake up and approach the day wondering how I can give and be of service to others. 

As I wander and wonder, I realize that I feel the most alive and connected to my Self when I am traveling, when I'm in motion and when I'm in new places, meeting new people and trying new things.  This kind of travel is to my spirit what air is to my lungs and food is to my body.  

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