Seekers are all around us. They are seeking God, seeking freedom, seeking peace. Chasing Eden: A Book of Seekers is about this pursuit, about Americans seeking their Promised Land, their utopia out on the horizon — which by definition, is ever receding before us. In Chasing Eden we meet a gathering of Americans – the Shakers in the twilight of their utopia; the Wampanoags confronting the Pilgrims; the God-besotted landscape painters who taught Americans that in wilderness was Eden; and 40,000 Africans newly freed from slavery granted 40 acres and a mule – only to be swiftly dispossessed. These and other seekers were on the road to find out, all united by their longing to find in America “a revolution of the spirit.”
While reporting on citizens fighting natural gas pipelines and transmission towers planned to cut right across their homes, Howard Mansfield saw the emotional toll of these projects. “They got under the skin,” writes Mansfield. “This was about more than kilowatts, powerlines, and pipelines. Something in this upheaval felt familiar. I began to realize that I was witnessing an essential American experience: the world turned upside down. And it all turned on one word: property.”
In twenty-one short essays Howard Mansfield calls on thirty years of his observations of life in a small New Hampshire town. He tells stories about neighbors, animals, tractors, trees, yard sales, funerals, money, and fidelity to time itself. But these stories also contain much more. Mansfield writes, “We get from stories what we bring to them, and in small towns we may bring entire lives to the reading, and sometimes a simple story runs deep.”
A shed is the shortest line between need and shelter,” writes Howard Mansfield. Drawing on material from his recent book Dwelling in Possibility, Mansfield explores the different types of sheds found around New England and beyond: covered bridges, barns, worksheds, “worship sheds” (meeting houses), extended farmhouses, bob houses for ice fishing. In lyrical style and supported by photographs by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey, Mansfield shows the connection between the design of these structures and their roles in our lives. “Sheds are like our lives—not the grandest building or the most graceful. Sheds are ordinary—and in that they are exalted.”
Dwelling is an old-fashioned word that we’ve misplaced.
We know within seconds upon entering a new house if we feel at home. We know when a place makes us feel more alive. This is the mystery that interests Howard Mansfield — some houses have life, are home, are dwellings, and others don’t.
Dwelling in Possibility is a search for the ordinary qualities that make some houses a home, and some public places welcoming.
This is a book about time and place. They were once inseparable. Science historians note that before Thomas Edison, light and fire were the same thing; after Edison they were separate. The same can be said of time and place. The origins of our 24/7 world can be found in this great change.
The Bones of The Earth is a book about landmarks, but of the oldest kind—sticks and stones. For millennia this is all there was: sticks and stones, dirt and trees, animals and people, the sky by day and night. The Lord spoke through burning bushes, through lightning and oaks. Trees and rocks and water were holy. They are commodities today and that is part of our disquiet.
An old farmer boasts that he has used the same ax his whole life—he’s only had to replace the handle three times and the head twice. In an eclectic, insightful meditation of the powerful impulse to preserve and restore, Howard Mansfield explores the myriad ways in which we attempt to reconnect and recover the past—to use the same ax twice.
“We have everywhere an absence of memory. Architects sometimes talk of building with context and continuity in mind, religious leaders call it tradition, social workers say it’s a sense of community, but it is memory we have banished from our cities. We have speed and power, but no place. Travel, but no destination. Convenience, but no ease.”
—from In the Memory House
Skylark: The Life, Lies and Inventions of Harry Atwood is the story of one of the great pioneers in American aviation chasing the dream of flight. Harry Atwood was a Wright Brothers-trained aviator, inventor and con man, a headline hero who fascinated the media for three decades and died in obscurity in Hanging Dog, North Carolina in the days before the moon landing.
In the language of the area’s original inhabitants, Mount Monadnock, in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, is “the mountain that stands alone.” This anthology, with its rich mix of original essays, historical texts, and excerpts from oral histories, celebrates the natural and human history of this region. Editor Howard Mansfield says that “the elusive feel of one place exists in that intersection of political and family history, landscape, destiny, expectations, weather and time.”
Architects James Estes and Peter Twombly have described their nearly two decades of work as “quiet modernism.” Their Rhode Island-based firm, Estes/Twombly Architects, builds modestly sized and geometrically precise houses that are unique to their New England locale. These award-winning homes reflect the area’s strong architectural heritage—white cedar shingles, sliding barn doors, standing-seam metal roofs—without being derivative.
Over the years, architectural photographer Brian Vanden Brink, has stolen time from photographing the homes of the affluent to focus on deserted homes and architectural ruins. In Ruin, Vanden Brink illuminates in stunning color and black and white images churches, mills, bridges, grain elevators, storefronts, a lead smelter, and the pitch-black depths of a plutonium storage vault. Through Vanden Brink’s lens, these structures become iconic, representing an America that was built and then abandoned. With an introduction by Howard Mansfield, this collection of photos grants permanence to places that may soon vanish forever.
The twentieth century saw a grand procession of promises for the city. We would have cities of glittering white towers planted in green parks, as the great modern architect Le Corbusier dictated. Or we would have cities with no downtown, cities spread across the countryside with each family on its homestead, as Frank Lloyd Wright proposed. Or we would live in paradise on the 100th floor with our airplane hangared next door, as Hugh Ferriss and the other skyscraper utopians of the 1920s promised.
Christopher Hogwood is definitely a pig with personality! He’s bright, curious, and has just a slight infatuation with rich, inviting mud. Hogwood Steps Out is Howard Mansfield’s fictionalized account of his own pig’s behavior on a fine spring day, a pig made famous in his wife Sy Montgomery’s book, The Good Good Pig. Barry Moser’s luminescent paintings give Hogwood a personality that is all his own, allowing him to remind us to notice all the little wonderful things that surround us every day.