Chasing Eden

Listen to WGBH radio’s Boston Public Radio

Listen to The Writer’s Voice

The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down

Listen to Howard and Prof. Paul Searls discussing Romaine Tenney on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition. Fifty-five years ago, farmer Romaine Tenney set fire to his barns and farmhouse, with himself inside, after his land was seized by the state to make way for Interstate 91. Now Vermont is planning a permanent memorial. Listen here.

Listen to an interview on NHPR’s The Exchange. 
Listen to Howard reading from The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down
Listen to Robert H. Thomas, property lawyer and professor, interviewing Howard.
Listen to two episodes of the Infrastructure Junkies Podcast  
Second episode.

Infrastructure Junkies is “an informative and sometimes irreverent podcast for those interested in eminent domain, right of way land acquisition, or infrastructure development.”

This is probably not a podcast you’d stumble upon. It’s about, and by, the professionals who make eminent domain happen – the lawyers, and relocation specialists in what they call “the right of way industry.” When people are fighting an impending pipeline or powerline, these folks can easily be cast as the villains.

But the podcast by two lively hosts, Dave Arnold and Kristen Short Bennett, shows the truer, more complex picture. They believe in building new roads and pipelines. They believe that “one of the things that makes this nation such a wonderful place to live is our fabulous infrastructure system. We have reliable electricity, we have running water … safe and reliable airlines, and rails, and we have roads to take us anywhere we want to go,” as co-host Arnold says.

But they also know that to have your home taken by the state, no matter how good the intentions, can be a wrenching and emotional loss. “What we as right of way professionals do not always realize, however, is that every single project comes with a hidden price to humanity,” says Arnold. In some episodes lawyers on both sides of taking a property, debate, contesting the entire process and the vague, but all important, phrase “just compensation.”

On three different episodes, we have discussed my book, The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down. This is what the hosts said on my first visit:

Dave Arnold: I took Mansfield’s book off the shelf and “I began reading and it changed my life and my perspective…. The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down is now required reading for anybody who wants to come join my [legal] team.”

Kristen Short Bennett: “I’ve spent 16 years in the right of way industry. I have relocated over a thousand displacees. I have sat around countless kitchen tables explaining relocation benefits, listening to family histories, getting to know people from all walks of life. I pride myself on my ability to build rapport with landowners and displaces, and I’d even consider myself to be empathetic with their situations. But this book changed me as well. It shifted my perspective on what we do and the people who are impacted.

“I’ll give you an example, and this might even be a little controversial. I have stated on this very podcast, I think multiple times, that we don’t take people’s property, we buy it. And I would like to today retract that statement. We absolutely do take it. We take it and they do not have a choice or a say in the matter. Oh, we pay them fair market value, sure. But we take it. And I don’t need to lie to myself anymore about what I do to sleep at night because I think that we do is important and it’s necessary. But it is not work that his done without tremendous sacrifice by people who did not choose to be part of the process.”

Three episodes:

1. I discuss George Washington’s attempts to drain the Great Dismal Swamp and told the sad, important story about Romaine Tenney losing his farm, and his life, to an interstate highway. Listen here.

2. We delve into “The Land of Many Uses” — our national forests. From the mass destruction of old growth American timber throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to the creation of national forests, these national treasures may not be as safe as we would like them to be. We then head to New Hampshire’s North Country for the story “My Roots are Deeper than your Pockets” — when one’s land is more important than any amount of money, even if the landowner lacks sufficient financial resources. Listen here.

3. I explore “The Last Medieval Clam” by recounting some of the earliest battles for American soil which occurred in the courts across the ocean, and involved people who never set foot in North America Then the conversation turns to “The Pipeline in the Neighborhood” where the human effects of a massive infrastructure project are once again examined. Listen here.

Summer Over Autumn

Watch Chronicle, WMUR-TV


Watch Chronicle, WMUR-TV.
Listen to a short interview on NHPR’s Bookshelf

The Same Ax, Twice on the TEDx stage.

Dwelling in Possibility

Listen to a talk at the Monadnock Summer Lyceum
Listen to an interview on NHPR’s The Exchange
Listen to an interview on WBUR’s Radio Boston
Listen to an interview on KERA’s Think
Listen to an interview on VPR’s Vermont Edition 
Listen to an interview on the Writer’s Voice

Reviews of Dwelling in Possibility

Carlo Rotella, The Boston Globe

Will Morgan, Design New England, The Boston Globe

— Colleen Mondor,

— Leslie Thatcher, Truthout

— Joan Silverman, Maine Sunday Telegram

Interview with The Wire, Portsmouth, NH:  “Dwelling in Possibility isn’t a guide to de-cluttering a home (though Mansfield does write about clutter), nor does it offer step-by-step instructions on how to make a place, whether private or public, feel homey. Instead, it invites the reader to dream about different houses, different lives, and different times and places. It’s a book about being, not doing.”

Gwarlingo. Definition?
* A thoughtfully curated journal of contemporary art that combines all art forms & dispenses with unnecessary jargon
* A place for readers to get experienced advice about process, business, & the challenges of the creative life
* (And literally…) A Welsh word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it strikes.

Gwarlingo is where you can join the 40,000 readers who follow Michelle Aldredge’s colorful, thoughtful writing about the arts.  She recently wrote about Dwelling in Possibility.  Read her fine story here.

From an interview I did with Book Notes New Hampshire:  Occasional notes on New Hampshire’s book community from the Director of the Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library:

What’s the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?
      Go ahead and fail. In college my friends and I read E. B. White. His impressive collected essays had just been published. We admired his work; it set a high standard. One day my best friend came back from the library where he had been reading about the essayist and told me that White had spent time researching a story about the United Nations when it was new, but he had set it aside.
     That was a small revelation. Even E. B. White had started stories he didn’t finish. It’s an important lesson. If you’re going to follow your curiosity there will be many dead ends and wrong turns, but that’s all part of exploring the world.

The Allure of the Shed: A Short Excerpt from Dwelling in Possibility. Read it in New Hampshire Magazine, September 2013.


Turn and Jump, Listen to a short interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition

Turn and Jump, The Wall Street Journal

Turn and Jump, Englewood Review

Turn and Jump, Books and Culture: A Christian Review

Turn and Jump: C-SPAN Book TV

The Bones of the Earth : The Utne Reader

The Bones of the Earth : The Paula Gordon Show

Hogwood Steps Out

In the Memory House : New Hampshire Public Radio

The Same Ax, Twice : The Paula Gordon Show

The Same Ax, Twice : The New York Times Book Review