If Memorial Day marks the time when we begin to think about lemonade, hamburgers, fresh greens and a refreshing afternoon swim, by the Fourth of July we are truly into summer. Now our thoughts turn to lazy days of enjoying glorious weather and perhaps an afternoon or two – even a weekend or a week – of just kicking back. Playing cards, golfing, biking, hiking, sailing and of course reading.
Writers love the solitude, quiet and peacefulness that New Hampshire provides, and we love what they have left for us as their legacy.
Frost Place, the small farm where Robert Frost lived in Franconia, was purchased by the citizens of Franconia in 1976 so it could be preserved. Now you can experience the trails Robert Frost walked and attend poetry readings. The “house museum” is closed at the moment but the trails are open and it is worth a visit on a summer day to take in the glorious view of the White Mountains.
One of the books on my shelf to read this summer is "Our Nig, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black," written by Harriet E. Wilson in 1859. Ms. Wilson is believed to be the first African American women to publish a novel. It sank into obscurity until 1983, when Henry Louis Gates republished it with his discovery that the author was African American.
Harriet Wilson was from Milford, and you can learn more about her life and schedule a guided tour of the Milford Black Heritage Trail through the Harriet Wilson Project. This tour will guide you in understanding stories of Black history that have not been included in three centuries of white historical narrative.
When we think of writers from New Hampshire, another is Eleanor H. Porter, the author of Pollyanna, who grew up in Littleton. In 2002, the citizens of Littleton unveiled a stature in honor of Ms. Porter and the town holds an annual festival known as the "The Official Pollyanna Glad Day" during the summer.
Donald Hall, one of New Hampshire’s celebrated poets, loved Eagle Brook, the farm that had been in his family and served as both his home and an inspiration for much of his work until his death in 2018. The home has been purchased by a group of people interested in its preservation. On a delightful summer afternoon, a pleasant and scenic drive is through the town of Wilmot, along Route 4A or Rt. 4, between Lebanon and Andover. You might bring along a book of Hall’s poetry and read it while enjoying a picnic lunch.
Of course, one of my favorite American authors is James Baldwin. While we think of him living in France or in New York City, he was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough three times – in 1954, 1958 and 1960. Most of "Giovanni’s Room" was written when he was at MacDowell and the Colony’s beautiful stone library has recently been renamed the James Baldwin Library.
I can’t, of course, leave out Mark Twain, as we are reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain spent two summers near the end of his life when he was working on his memoirs in Dublin, New Hampshire. A story that many in Dublin will tell you is that he “rented” kittens when he was there, so much did he miss his beloved cats.
Much is changing in the world around us and it is our beloved books that will always bring us joy, a lens into understanding and interpreting history and through the imaginative speculative fiction of some writers we can even anticipate the future.
Happy Reading – and please send me a note with the books on your summer reading list.
Elizabeth Howard’s career intersects journalism, marketing and communications. Ned O’Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited, was published in May 2016. She is the author of A Day with Bonefish Joe, a children’s book, published by David R. Godine. You can send her a note at: Elizabeth@laconiadailysun.com