How much do I love The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare?
Let me count the ways.
Like lock-me-up-in-Arkham love.
Like “step away from the book, perv!” adore.
As a minimalist, I don’t own many physical copies of books anymore. I read ebooks and ebooks alone. I own two copies of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. You never know when you might need a back-up.
I listen to Podcasts about The Witch of Blackbird Pond. There’s only two The Witch of Blackbird Pond related podcasts; so great is my obsession that I’ve listened to them twice. Who re-plays podcasts? Me!
Back in the day, I created a fantasy cast for a make-believe movie and still get comments from aspiring actresses auditioning for Kit.
Look, I’m not a casting director! Stop sending me your headshots, unless you are the spitting image of Nat Eaton in which case I will require you to act out the shirtless firewood chopping scene.
Extra points if you can reach for a billowing sail or swing nimbly around the rigging.
Is it me or does Nat spend most of the book shirtless? Food for thought.
If you scroll through said board, you’ll find lots of ‘kissing in tall grass’ images.
Let’s set the record straight: there’s no kissing in the book (is kissing even allowed in Puritanical times? That’s a sentence in the stocks, right?).
If you read between the lines, things get steamy in Puritanical times…
No? You obviously haven’t read any of the fanfic I’ve been reading.
I’ve raved (lustfully) about this book so much that I’ve driven everyone around me bonkers.
Being a The Witch of Blackbird Pond fangirl isn’t like being into Star Wars or Harry Potter or even Pride and Prejudice.
It’s lonely and exhausting and sometimes it feels like you’re shouting into a void, hoping for an echo.
There are no conventions, no cosplay, no fans, no mugs with swirly gold script saying “I left the real witch behind” or “Got blueberry cake & a kitten?”
The best you can hope for is this post and a casual entry into #thewitchofblackbirdpond on Instagram (most of which were created by me).
Would it be safe to say I’m The Witch of Blackbird Pond’s #1 fan and only content creator?
So after 24 years of loving and pining, hoping and dreaming, blogging and squeeing, I finally, finally set foot in Old Wethersfield, CT, the real life setting of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
My. Life. Is. Complete.
I hyperventilate upon arrival and get emotional over free parking…
For some, it’s Hawaii or Paris.
For me, it’s Historic Wethersfield, CT…
And that’s exactly what I told the unsuspecting guy at the visitor’s center “I am here for The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Give me the experience!”
He was surprised to hear that we flew three thousand miles just to come to Wethersfield and while there was no “The Witch of Blackbird Pond experience” of the Star Wars or Harry Potter nature, he gave us a town map and sent us on our merry way.
It’s likely he was scared by yours truly, particularly when I began vibrating with glee when he pointed to Wethersfield Cove (where the Dolphin would’ve docked. OMG! OMG!), and I don’t blame him.
Can anyone look into the face of unmitigated fangirl joy and not feel nervous?
In anticipation for this day, I spent significant time on the road quoting The Witch of Blackbird Pond lines.
Nat Eaton (Bostonian accent with a touch of salty sea captain): I hadn’t gone ten miles down the river when I realized I left the real witch behind.
Kit Tyler (My version sounds like Scarlet O’Hara but British. Does this make sense?): What a cocky seaman he was! Strolling through town without a proper goodbye all the while thinking about a bird!
Hannah Tupper (I do a great old lady voice. My version is a spot on version of Mrs. Doubtfire): Bless thee child! Thee has no escape if love is not there.
These lines are drawn from memory as I’ve read The Witch of Blackbird Pond fifteen times. Also, I am too lazy to get up and retrieve the actual book. Impressed?
Because it was a long road trip, I ran out of steam doing The Witch of Blackbird Pond lines and quickly transitioned into doing lines from Jaws because Jaws=Sea Captains=New England. Obviously.
Between “We’re going to need a bigger boat” and “Fancy that, a school mistress,” Eric looked like he was about to kill me.
I was already exuberant as we entered town (Exhibit A: my breathless IG WOBP Highlights).
Sadly, the video stops there. I quickly nixed filming after I entered the parking lot.
The thing with living in Los Angeles and its environs is that parking is a rarity.
Nothing is ever free so when you spot ample parking spaces and you don’t have to parallel, it’s like experiencing human decency after being spat upon your entire life.
It’s like a retail worker being gifted time off on Black Friday.
I wasn’t aware of how deprived I was until I laid eyes on that empty parking lot behind the Historic Wethersfield Visitor’s center.
I could’ve cried and moaned Quasimodo’s lines in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) “she gaaaave me waaaater!” except in my case: “they gaaaaave me paaarking!”
With an entire day to ponder the abuse L.A. has wreaked upon my soul, we figured it wouldn’t be wise to spend all day fawning over the parking lot.
Since my attempts at vlogging involved a lot of loud, unpleasant noises, we didn’t want shifty looks from the residents.
To quote Goodwife Cruff (In Wicked Witch of the West demeanor. I do a great witch cackle, FYI): This town doesn’t take kindly to strangers and you be the strangest of them all.
I was prepared to receive the same frosty Puritan welcome and not-so passive prejudice Kit Tyler received upon arrival.
And a secret (re: sick) part of me actually welcomed it.
I wanted to be made to feel low… and be publicly shamed like the women of yore because that was part and parcel of the The Witch of Blackbird Pond experience!
Rest assured, none of that happened. Either the rumors of New Englanders being tough nuts to crack are completely false or I’m just great a cracking nuts, because everybody I crossed paths with were super friendly.
I had an actual, real-life conversation with not one, but two people. There were laughs and real HUMAN emotions.
Most mind-blowing of all, people actually say Hello to you as you pass them on the street.
Back home, when I greet my neighbor, he usually ignores me and puffs vape vapors in my face.
Again, it’s been a long time since I knew what human decency feels like… Like Lizzie Bennet, I realized that I have not been prejudiced against by the Puritans.
It is I who have prejudiced and it is I who cannot write a grammatically correct sentence.
Historic Wethersfield is a walkable town in that it is tiny compared to anywhere in California. Since it was early and none of the shops were opened, we ambled about.
We passed rows of gorgeous historical homes from every architectural style imaginable.
We passed oodles of Halloween decor because this town is serious about Halloween.
Eric steps on a tick. I ponder reality.
We strolled down Main St, Broad St., and Church St. (these are legit streets mentioned in the book).
To think, I walked the same streets that Kit Tyler would’ve walked, a fact which I pointed out to Eric several times.
He reminded me that Kit Tyler wasn’t real.
To which I reminded him that she is real if I believed hard enough.
To which he had no reply.
Along the way, he spotted a tick…
Eric researched ticks and Lyme disease and the mosquito borne EEE virus prior to our trip.
We came over-prepared, spraying our clothes with insect repellent, armed with bottles of permethrin.
Until this point, we never saw a tick.
And then Eric spotted this one. It was waddling across the pavement, fat from a recent blood feast.
His sense of self-preservation kicked in…
And he stepped on it.
It burst like a blood balloon.
Thus began a low-key freak out between the two of us.
On the pavement no less!
WTF, we thought ticks were confined to tall grass!
What if this town was swarming with them?
Lyme Disease is serious business folks.
Amy Tan is a known sufferer of Lyme Disease and she’s an author.
Oh shit, what if ticks were drawn to authors?
Granted, Amy Tan is an author of great success and I am an author of middling success, but she is Asian as I am Asian.
What if ticks have a taste for Asian blood?
Suffice to say we eventually calmed down and walked the pavement with shifty eyes, ready to destroy any tick that may waddle our way.
The Infamous Diamond Pane Windows
One of my must-see Wethersfield sites is the Buttolph-Williams House, which up to this point, I called the Randolph Butthole House.
Not to be juvenile (okay, the butthole part was pretty juvenile), but here’s the thing: I can’t pronounce anything.
Call it a side-effect of reading more than speaking.
I’ll recognize a word or name when I see it in writing, but I can’t actually say it.
I can’t say ‘rural.’
I can’t pronounce ‘Buttolph.’
As for the ‘Randolph’ part? It’s anyone’s guess where that came from.
When it was time to buy tickets for a house tour, I lost the ‘Randolph’ bit but almost let the ‘Butthole’ part slip. Whew.
Rumor has it that Elizabeth George Speare lived in Wethersfield during the writing of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The Buttolph-Williams house was her inspiration for the Woods’ house.
It’s the house where Kit was subjected to all forms of 1687 domestic labor: card wool, make corn meal, sleep when the sun goes down, wake at the break of dawn to work again.
Come to think of it, her life in Wethersfield kind of sucked, didn’t it?
The interior was dingy and drafty, creepy and crawly.
The ceilings were low, the furniture was made of dark un-Instagram-able oak.
There were no throw pillows or inspirational sayings like ‘Live, Laugh, Love.’
The staircase was steep & narrow and if you weren’t careful, you would probably slip and die.
It was GREAT!
Need I mention this house has the infamous diamond pane windows.
Remember when Kit and Judith were waiting for scissors to come from Barbados, but deep down Kit was really hoping to see Nat (she does not understand her own heart!) and he bounces down the gangplank with sexy sure-footed steps and throws shade at her over her engagement to William Ashby.
Let me… draw from memory:
Nat Eaton (Bostonian with a touch of sea captain): An interesting cargo we have this trip. Sixteen diamond pane windows for one William Ashby. Word has it he’s building a house for his hoity-toity bride from Barbados and the best is none too good for her. No oiled paper in her windows, no indeed!
Did I get that right? You bet your ass I did!
Later, Nat places jack-o-lanterns on William’s window sill and is sentenced to three days in the stocks and banishment from town with the threat of 30 lashes if he showed his sexy sailor face. Gah!!!
Do you know how many times I’ve asked Eric if he would take 30 lashes on my behalf?
Don’t you understand that this is the most romantic thing my 11 year old self has ever read?
And even though I’m a thirty-mumble-mumble year old cynic now, I still can’t get over this grand, somewhat stupid gesture. I’ve been RUINED for 24 years and all because of these diamond pane windows.
The Bloody Beautiful Cove…
This is where the magic happens.
The modern day cove that resembles the Blackbird Pond of my imagination.
This warehouse is the only one of its kind.
Built around 1680, The Dolphin would’ve docked here and sailors (my beloved Nat Eaton included), would’ve traded molasses from Barbados in exchange for Connecticut Colony onions, corn, and lumber.
It was closed for the season but I lingered as long as possible to absorb the seafaring atmosphere! Isn’t it romantic?
I learned that the Great Hurricane of 1692 changed the course of the Connecticut River and the booming West Indies trade.
This tidbit gutted me.
I thought about Kit and Nat and their happily ever after.
I hoped Nat paid off The Witch with proceeds from next summer’s trade and I really hoped he wasn’t fool enough to take on any subprime loans at a high variable interest rate.
I may seem serene in this picture, but I’m actually contemplating Kit & Nat’s future and how Nat will be forced to bust out the Eaton family blunderbuss and kick ship repo guy ass.
In order to keep corn meal on the table, Kit would have to turn tricks in the Meadows, tricks she learned from Hannah Tupper…
After all, it was implied that Hannah Tupper lived a life.
And Uncle Matthew will say “This is what you get for marrying a common riverman.”
Don’t we all hate it when Uncle Matthew is right?
I explained my worries to Eric, to which he replied: “It is possible.”
But you know what’s impossible?
How I my love for The Witch of Blackbird Pond will never die…
Silliness aside, this book found me at a time in my life when I was young and impressionable, when the world still held a hint of magic and the future promised a happy ending.
If you read The Witch of Blackbird Pond as a hardened cynic, I can’t guarantee you’ll see the magic of October or fall for Nat Eaton or even like Kit Tyler.
My love affair with The Witch of Blackbird Pond is what happens when the right book lands in the hands of the right reader.
It’s the perfect alchemy of two dreamers (an author from the ‘50s and an eleven-year-old from the ‘90’s) meeting between the lines of a book.
People change, but books don’t change.
I’ve returned to books I’ve loved as a teen/early twenties and the romance has fizzled, but The Witch of Blackbird Pond has always kept its promise of friends against loneliness and a bright future over the horizon.
More than any photo album, re-reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond again is like opening up a time capsule:
I’m an eleven-year-old living in the shadow of a Long Beach gas refinery, just trying to figure out what ‘brigantine’ meant.
I’m thirteen, seated in a fold away chair in my backyard, snacking on a lime popsicle and falling in love with Nat Eaton.
I’m twenty, alone in the dark of my dorm room, feeling small and insignificant and in need of a friend.
I’m twenty-five, elbows deep in a quarter life crisis but blogging my way into a writing career.
I’m thirty, just married, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond on the plane ride to my honeymoon.
I’m thirty-four, haven’t put pen to paper in over three years, feeling like my dreams have died and I’ll never write again.
And then I re-read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and you know what?
The book still held its promise.
It’s the book that inspired me to be a writer and it’s the same book that kept me writing even when I felt like giving up.
It’s a memory, a hope, an old friend…
If you’re so lucky to find The Witch of Blackbird Pond during an impressionable and transformative point in your life, I advise you to hold it close and love with well.
This book is for keeps.
Are you a Witch of Blackbird Pond fan? What made you fall in love with this book? Tell me all your secrets!
What’s that? You haven’t read The Witch of Blackbird Pond?! *Cracks whip* Start reading and report back to me in comments!
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