I am honored and surprised to find In the Memory House on writer Jim Rogers’ list of ten books that have made an impact on him. Jim Rogers wrote: “Not sure why I first picked up Howard Mansfield’s book In the Memory House (1993), but it is a jewel – a lyric meditation on the beauty of the nearby, the endurance of memory, and (this sounds way more ponderous than it is) on the phenomenology of living in a place, in his case rural New Hampshire. Howard Mansfield is a treasure whose essays and books deserve to be much better known.”
On Facebook, other readers joined in. The writer Rebecca Rule said, “It changed my way of thinking about old stuff. And I think a lot about old stuff.” New England College professor of art Inez McDermott said, “This book mattered to me, too. It got me out of the academic approach to art history and I began to teach, think, research and write in a more “holistic” (for lack of a better word) way.” And Leslie Rosoff Kenney said, “I also loved this book. Thank you, Howard.”
Thank you Fritz Wetherbee for telling your loyal New Hampshire Chronicle viewers about Summer Over Autumn. Here’s what Fritz said:
Hands-down, the finest writer of Yankee life today is this guy, Howard Mansfield. Howard Mansfield sees things differently than most of us, and he points stuff out that most of us miss. Robert Frost had this ability to look at something familiar, say a leaf or a tuft of flowers and find a depth of meaning that, until we read the poem, eludes us. Howard Mansfield has written 13 books and lots of articles. But my recommendation, if you are not familiar with his output or style, is this: it is a modest book entitled Summer Over Autumn. This book is funny, this book is profound. I found myself saying, ‘darned if that isn’t true,’ a number of times. Characters here that anybody who has lived in a New England town for any time is familiar with; people who care, people who are selfish, people doing brilliant things, people doing dumb things.
Let me read a few sentences, give you an idea of what this guy does. “What we find in ruins,” he writes, “is a kind of melancholy. Free of clutter, free of us, a house gains stillness. It is a kind of stillness that we find on old country roads. It’s the skull under the skin, the skeleton, the death inside us. It’s the clock ticking our days away. We lack a good word for this kind of going away, this decay in which something else is present. Ghost or ruin doesn’t convey it. The Japanese call this feeling mono no aware, defined as the bittersweet sadness of things as they are, or a sensitivity to the fleeting beauty of the world. ‘You accept it, you even in a small way celebrate it….’”
Is that good or is that good?
Wish I had more time. Howard, by the way, lives in Hancock with his wife, another wonderful writer, Sy Montgomery. Talk about a power couple.
Watch this segment of New Hampshire Chronicle here.
“Addison Del Mastro, assistant editor: I’ve been reading The Bones of the Earth by Howard Mansfield. I discovered this book while I was doing some research on the retail history of Route 22, one of New Jersey’s iconic post-war highway strips. It happened that Mansfield wrote a couple of pages about Route 22 here, and the kitschy midcentury signs and buildings there, some of which survive today.
“The Bones of the Earth is not, however, so much about historic preservation or suburbia, as it is about cultural memory and how we think about the past. Mansfield visits some old stone bridges in New England and ponders how they were built with no mortar, by masons who could tell from the shape of a stone exactly where in the bridge it needed to go. He also wrote about a tradition sparked by the now-defunct Boston Post, in which the paper distributed gold and ebony canes to the oldest residents of several hundred New England towns, and stipulated that upon death, the cane would be transferred to the next oldest resident. At the time of its writing in 2004, a handful of towns still participated in the tradition.
“When does a corporate sweepstakes like that turn into a genuine tradition? When does a faded neon sign of a smiling anthropomorphic bowling pin on an ugly highway strip meld into the nation’s cultural patrimony? Terms and ideas like “culture,” “historic preservation,” “the past,” and so many more have no clear definition and are based on many underlying assumptions. Mansfield wades into all of this to great, thought-provoking effect here.”
Summer Over Autumn has been chosen by Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., as a Top 12 Nonfiction Book for 2017.
Summer Over Autumn Leaf Contest. The winners are in!
A word from our judges (the author, a naturalist, and an artist):
“Dear friends, judging was rough. All the leaves sent in were both beautiful and poignant, and many were very creative: leaves under water, leaves on rocks, leaves with machinery, with feet, with ears, and even one with a (darling!) baby rat. All reminded us in some way of the cover leaf–and beautifully expressed the Summer Over Autumn demi-season that gave the title to the book. We want to thank all the contestants!”
1. Most poignant: “Prayer Flags” by Tianne Strombeck
2. Most beautiful: “Lazy Leaves” by Rana Williams
3. Most like the leaf on the cover: “Mid-September: Transition Time” by Dan Millbauer
Hancock’s Bob Fogg makes his radio debut. Virginia Prescott from NHPR’s Word of Mouth interviews Bob about winding the Hancock meetinghouse clock for 50 years. Bob is in my new book, Summer Over Autumn. We’re both on Word on Mouth. Listen here. Bob is right at the start, and I come in at about 21:00 for a short interview.
Summer Over Autumn Leaf Contest
To celebrate the demi-season between summer and fall, that lovely time of year Howard Mansfield describes in his new book Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small Town Life, we’re holding a contest!
There will be three local prizes for three categories of the best “summer over autumn” leaves and all winners receive a signed copy of the book! The prizes and full contest details are below:
- 1st Prize: For the most poignant Summer Over Autumn leaf$50 gift certificate towards dinner at the Hancock Inn
- 2nd Prize: For the most beautiful Summer Over Autumn leaf$25 gift certificate towards lunch at Fiddleheads Cafe
- 3rd Prize: For the leaf most like that on the cover of Summer Over Autumn$10 gift certificate towards coffee/treats from The Hancock Market
Monday, November 21, 2016
Sheds – the TV show. Watch Monday for a short segment on Chronicle at 7:30. WCVB, Channel 5 in Boston or online streaming live. http://www.wcvb.com/chronicle
Saturday July 23 ~ Tour de Sheds 2016!
“Where I live,” opens Sheds, a new book by Howard Mansfield with photographs by Joanna Eldredge Morrisey, “we really have only one kind of building, old and new, big and small: the shed. From woodsheds to barns, to houses, meetinghouses, and covered bridges, they are all sheds.”
Through a fundraiser for the Hancock Town Library, locals and visitors can tour a variety of sheds in Hancock and environs on July 23. The event begins with a brief talk by Mansfield at 11 a.m. at the library, where the shed tourists will be provided with a copy of the book and a map to seven sheds. The sheds will be staffed by docents (aka “shedsters”) and open for viewing until 3 p.m. Tour participants are invited to meet up at the Hancock Inn at 3 to enjoy a Shed Brown Ale.
The tour includes a range of structures, from a sugar shack to a barn to a sculptor’s studio to carriage sheds – and then some. Tickets are $25 and include the talk, the tour, and a copy of the book, which is priced at $25.
Sheds is 2016 Forward Reviews Book Awards finalist in the photography category. Congratulations Joanna Eldredge Morrissey and the book’s designer Henry James. All those photo treks really paid off.
Category winners will be announced at the end of June.
Some well-intentioned folks are issuing dire warnings that fireplaces should be outlawed. One crusader says that having a wood fire is like having a diesel engine idling in your house. I suspect this man wouldn’t know a dry cord of wood even if it were dumped on top of him.
All of this continues the long assault against the hearth, which I wrote about in my last book, Dwelling in Possibility. Jennifer Graham, a reporter for the Deseret News has done a good job presenting the concerns of various health advocates, and my reply about what we may lose:
If the rest of the country goes the way of Montreal, New York City and Berkeley, something essential will be lost, says Howard Mansfield, a New Hampshire author whose 2013 book “Dwelling in Possibility” defined the hearth as the heart of a home.
“When we lose the hearth, we lose the central gathering place of a home; we lose the shadows, the intimacy, the storytelling, the focus. We lose something that gives us permission to slow down,” said Mansfield, noting that the Latin word for “focus” is “hearth.”
Fire, Mansfield said, is our most ancient connection, a seemingly stable link between modern humans and their earliest ancestors. When humans moved inside, they brought the campfire with them and installed it in fireplaces and wood stoves. But the electric light and the furnace both freed families from cold and darkness and dispersed them to separate spaces, and nothing has quite replaced the fire as a gathering place, he said. (Except maybe the TV.)
“There is nothing like a wood fire. It makes the whole house feel different,” he added. “That’s a lot you’re asking people to give up.”
Chronicle, WMUR-TV’s evening show, has done a fine preview of the Sheds photo book which will be published this March. Watch the short show.
I’m glad to see that Harvard Prof. John Stilgoe is using Dwelling in Possibility once again in his course this fall: Studies of the Built North American Environment since 1580. The book seen just above, Landscapes and Images, is by Stilgoe and it’s terrific. Thanks to Judith Copeland for the photo from the Harvard Coop.
I am trying something new. I have published a story and photos on Atavist. Veterans Memorial Island is a story of the collision between peace and war, the American Dream and protest, children and parents. It’s a short memoir of a place and a time. Read it here.
40 over 40. The New Hampshire Humanities Council is celebrating their 40th anniversary by honoring 40 New Hampshire-based people who have “demonstrated what it means to create, teach, lead, assist, and encourage human understanding.”
I am honored to be among a group including poets Donald Hall and Charlie Simic, and filmmaker Ken Burns.
This is what the Humanities Council said:
“Howard Mansfield loves NH’s people. His writing connects everyday objects and the people who used them to what is meaningful in our world. Whether it is a simple axe used by a woodsman, or the hearth inside our home, or what we choose to have in our town historical societies, Howard illuminates the everyday with meaning. His words tell the stories of the common person and how they lived and constructed their lives in our state’s history. Howard not only gives voice to the people of our past, he gives of himself to the people here and now. Howard has served on historical societies, preservation groups and town committees. He is always willing to talk and share his insights with people through libraries, community centers and speaker series. He tells stories that make people laugh and feel ready to fall in love with their town’s own history. His book titles include, In the Memory House, The Same Ax Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a Throwaway Age, The Bones of the Earth and Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter. Howard is a gem in our granite landscape.”
Now in paperback: Cosmopolis: Yesterday’s Cities of the Future from Transaction Publishers.
It was pleasure to visit Laura Knoy at NHPR to talk about Thanksgiving on The Exchange, along with Emelia Attridge, staff writer with the Hippo Press, and Gerri King, social psychologist, former family therapist, and author. You can listen to the show here.
A few of my comments about going home for the holiday:
“Sarah Josepha Hale [Thanksgiving’s founder] talked about Thanksgiving as a time for hearth and altar. So it’s all about homecoming. And you figure when Lincoln finally sets up the holiday it’s a time when there’s a great hunger for homecoming because the country is rift apart.
“And I think underlying it all, there are two stories of homecoming that we run into at Thanksgiving. And they mix and they collide depending on where we are in our lives.
“The first is a story we know – Rip Van Winkle. He falls asleep in the hills for 20 years. Comes back to his native place. He’s a stranger. No one recognizes him. New lives all around him. His own home place is fallen in. Home leaves us. That’s the first thing we run into.
“And then the other story is a traveler’s tale. It’s a tale we tell on the road. Home is like the unchanging oasis. It’s never going to change. It’s where our youthful self still walks the world like some kind of spirit life. So: Home waits for us.
“So there we are at Thanksgiving and we hit these two conflicting stories: Home waits for us. Home leaves us. And I think we just ride out those emotions sometimes depending on where we are in our lives, who we’re visiting. It’s a very powerful holiday.”
TEDx — November 2014
Thank you to the throng of volunteers, organizers, techies, who put on TEDx and thank you Rosa for going lightly with the makeup and making funny faces as you looked at my hair. Each TEDx-oid (possible word? No. Tedx-ite? Maybe) — each TEDx-er was welcoming.
Watch the TEDx talk.
This is a doodle of my talk by a Tweeting Doodler that TEDx tweeted.
Meet Howard Mansfield, 2014 TEDxAmoskeagMillyard Speaker
Howard Mansfield is a writer; one that writes of what we once knew and somehow lost along the way. When we read his words, we harken back to what we held dear, now somehow lying dormant for far too long. His writing resonates deeply, and we begin to wonder how we could have let go of what once mattered so much. He takes nothing for granted, and his readers reawaken to a very different world—their own world—viewing it in a new, yet familiar, way.
I am happy to report that I’ll be speaking at this year’s TEDxAmoskeagMillyard. The theme is “Connection.” “From our deepening understanding of the world’s interdependent ecosystems to an appreciation of the potential of intellectual and artistic collaboration, we’ll explore what happens when we connect: with people, with place, with ideas, or with beauty. If the Renaissance showed us the importance of the individual, our modern world highlights the importance of connection.”
The other speakers are:
Jessica Higgins, U.S. Army veteran and advocate.
Deepika Kurup, Clean water advocate.
Emilie Aries, Gender equality and political activist.
Dr. Louise Pascale, Afghan children’s music advocate and educator.
Randy Pierce, Explorer.
Tania Simoncelli,Gene defender.
Manuel Hernández Carmona, ESL innovator, author and educator.
Joel Christian Gill,Artist, storyteller and educator.
A Moveable Garden is a thoughtful blog by a gardener who has had her hands in the soil for almost 25 years. “I’ve spent countless hours just looking at my plants, at the insect and bird activity on, in, and around them, and appreciating both the simplicity and complexity of habitat.” Right now this gardener is reading Dwelling in Possibility and thinking about it while writing about the essence of Louis Kahn’s great Salk Institute. I am honored to find my book in the company of Kahn and a good gardener. Read the blogpost from a Moveable Garden here.
I am honored to be a part of a reason to celebrate. Yankee Magazine is a 2014 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist for “Excellence in Writing” for the March/April 2013 issue, “The Power of Place.” Two of the stories in that issue are:
* My Roots are Deeper Than Your Pockets
Rod McAllister could have sold his dairy farm for $4 million dollars. But where would he be? He would have sold himself off the earth. Rod is just one of many in the North County of New Hampshire who are taking a stand against having their home cut up by the transmission lines of the proposed Northern Pass project. Read it here.
* I Will Not Leave: Romaine Tenney Loved His Farm to Death
In the Summer of 1964 a bachelor Vermont farmer faces the new Interstate highway coming right through his house and barns. A tragic love story. Read it here.
In her blog, In the Sunny Spot, Katy Noelle talks about reading Dwelling in Possibility:
Dwelling in Possibility outsells Fifty Shades of Grey — at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, NH. In a January 6, 2014 story, Publishers Weekly reports on an ‘Excellent’ Holiday for Many Indies: “local authors, frequently published by local presses, did well across the board. At the Toadstool local authors Archer Mayor’s Three Can Keep a Secret and Howard Mansfield’s Dwelling in Possibility were among the season’s best. The latter outsold last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey by 20%.”
The Post-Hearth House. A Boston Globe 0p-ed by Jennifer Graham looks at the diminished fireplace in our homes. Graham quotes from Dwelling in Possibility: “Putting out a campfire that’s burned throughout millennia is such a significant change that we can divide the history of dwelling between Hearth and Post-Hearth.” Read her op-ed here.
Book Riot Picks Dwelling in Possibility as one of the Best Books of 2013: “Howard Mansfield writes in the dreamy prose of a poet, while discussing everything from what makes a home feel like home to the rebuilding of communities after being literally bombed, flooded, or otherwise destroyed.”
“The best buildings are the ones we can look at every day of our lives and still see something new,” Howard says. “They keep revealing themselves and refreshing our spirit.” That’s from the fine story in Michelle Aldredge’s lively, colorful arts journal, Gwarlingo. Read her story about Dwelling in Possibility here.
Just published in paperback. Turn and Jump: How Time and Place Fell Apart. (Rowman & Littlefield) ISBN 978-1-4422-2638-8
New Hampshire Magazine’s September 2013 issue says: “Every book by Hancock author Howard Mansfield is a cause for celebration among thoughtful readers. His granitic epiphanies are as universal as water but as precious and local as a backyard well. His latest book, “Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter” (available this month from Bauhan Publishing of Peterborough), covers a lot of ground from an ambiguous critique of Frank Lloyd Wright to a chronicle of life in NH’s Great Ice Storm of 2008, but this opening to his chapter titled “Sheds” makes a great introduction.”
“Go ahead and fail.” 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:
“The tyranny of all institutions is that they control time. Everyone is on school time or airport time. We wait and do as we are told. Hospitals are like that, but the stakes are higher. The first thing about hospital time is that we never know how long we will be there. Will one test or “procedure” lead to complications? When will the doctor stop by to sign our papers so we can leave? Will we ever leave?”
That’s from my interview on the blog for the new book At the End of Life. You can read the interview here>
New paperback: At the End of Life, a collection of essays edited by Lee Gutkind, has just been published by Creative Nonfiction Books. Howard Mansfield contributed an essay, “Waiting (to go Home).”
Prof. Joy Ackerman at Antioch University New England is having her students read The Bones of the Earth and In the Memory House for the course “Making Sense of Place.” Howard Mansfield will visit the class.
New ebooks:Turn and Jump, and The Bones of the Earth are now in ebook editions for the Kindle and the Nook.
Turn and Jump has won an “IPPY:” Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2011. Silver medal, in the science category.
Franklin Pierce University has awarded Howard Mansfield and his wife Sy Montgomery each a Doctor of Humane Letters.
Here’s what they said at Commencement, May 2011:
Author Preservationist Historian
Howard Mansfield embodies what Barry Lopez has called “a local genius of American landscape, one whose knowledge is intimate rather than encyclopedic and whose writing rings with the concrete details of experience.” These individuals are uncommon, and we in the Monadnock region are privileged to be able to see our home ground through his keen and generous eyes. He uncovered and celebrated the distinctive features of this place as editor of Franklin Pierce University’s Monadnock Institute of Nature, Place and Culture’s anthology of essays Where the Mountains Stands Alone: Stories of Place in the Monadnock Region. He has been a founding member of the Monadnock Institute’s advisory board since 1996.
With deep knowledge, painstaking accuracy and more than a touch of humor, Mansfield carries us back to another time through his reflections and ruminations. His words allow us to see and experience traditional ways as well as the dizzy pace of change. We see through him that time and silence are more valuable than the things we often accumulate and become overwhelmed by. He encourages us to really look at where and how we live, and to honor the old houses that are ‘brimming cups of here’ where “house, land and people seem to be breathing at the same rate.”
When he first moved to New Hampshire, he visited the historic society in his small town and observed the items that this community chose for their ‘memory house’ — a tassel from the decorations of the late President Lincoln’s funeral car, a drum that may have been used in the Revolution — and recognized “here was a glimpse of a community in the act of remembering.”
Howard Mansfield has written, edited and contributed to over a dozen books about history, preservation and architecture. He writes of the importance of restoring old ways of doing things to “import some of the things we are losing daily: silence, repose, memory,” and “make time for being here – not online, not rushing to do everything.”
Because he has reminded us of what is truly significant in our daily lives, because he has traveled back in time as far as 10,000 years to bring his readers into the experiences of the past, because he has given us stories that capture the habits and hopes of our distinct community, and because he is dedicated to restoration in our throw-away society, Franklin Pierce University is proud, on this 14th day of May 2011, to confer upon Howard Mansfield the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.”
Exploring time and place with Howard Mansfield
“Author Howard Mansfield sifts through the commonplace and the forgotten to discover stories that tell us about ourselves and our relationship to the world.”
Whole Terrain | a journal of Reflective Environmental Practice