friday feast: good times at the frost place

“Come over the hills and far with me and be my love in the rain.”

So here’s the view from the upstairs bedroom window at The Frost Place in Franconia. When I first read “The Road Not Taken” as a student eons ago, I hadn’t the faintest inkling where the poet might have lived when he wrote it — indeed, I knew nothing about New Hampshire, period.

As fate would have it, this Hawai’i girl met her husband, a New Hampshire native, in London, England, and since then, we’ve visited many poets’ and writers’ homes on both sides of the pond. It’s always a wonderful moment when you finally get to see where a writer you’ve long admired actually lived. All at once he becomes a real person, and if you listen carefully you can hear whisperings from the past, as you gaze at the view that may very well have inspired a poem or two.

“I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Frost lived here full time between 1915-1920, then summered here until 1938. Unlike his ten-year sojourn at Derry Farm (a period of unsuccessful farming and meager publication), by the time Frost inhabited this modest farmhouse his literary reputation was well established. He had just returned from England where his first two books (A Boy’s Will, North to Boston) had finally earned him the professional esteem he so earnestly sought and deserved.

The orange daylilies were in full bloom on that Friday in July when we happened upon the rusty mailbox on Ridge Road.

I sat on the porch rejuvenated by the clean fresh air, the silence broken only by occasional birdsong and the buzzing of determined bees. No wonder Frost loved it here!

Not all the furniture is original to the house, but we enjoyed peeking into each room, trying to imagine the everyday conversation and activities of a young family of six, as we perused photos, first editions and other memorabilia. I was disappointed that the kitchen wasn’t open to the public, and paused in front of the resident poet’s door. Was she in her room at that very moment, madly scribbling a new poem, trying her best to ignore our chatter and footfall? And what would she cook for breakfast the next morning?

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
“Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose into the world.”
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”

Later, I watched a Frost video in the barn, and then we ambled along the nature trail out back, which is marked by poetry plaques affixed to trees. Two of them are placed where Frost actually wrote the poems.

Speaking of poetry plaques, remember our lunch in Franconia just before we visited Mr. Frost? Wendy Manning, owner of Wendle’s Deli (our new favorite eatery in the North Country), is a great friend and supporter of The Frost Place. Recently she was presented with a Frost poetry trail plaque by Office Manager Sue Jessen. What do you think of when you hear the sound of trees? I always thought they were laughing, but now I’m not so sure.

Wendy with her poetry trail plaque (thanks to Sue Jessen for permission to post this photo).

by Robert Frost

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.
I’ve always appreciated the shade, privacy and protection our trees provide from the fast, busy world just beyond our driveway. Now I’m thinking how firmly rooted we are in our community and in our thinking. The sound of trees is soothing and purifying. Everyone grows restless. Does it take more courage to stay or to go?
The always lovely and gracious Irene Latham has the Roundup today at
Live. Love. Explore! Enjoy all the cool poems being shared around the blogosphere this week with your newly acquired listening air. ☺
Happy Weekend!
♥ Read all about our lunch at Wendle’s Deli here.
♥ Learn more about The Frost Place at their official website. They also have a brand new blog, where they are accepting submissions and looking for a new resident poet for Summer 2012.
♥ Did you by chance miss Jeannine Atkins’s lovely posts about The Frost Place and Derry Farm?
Someday, I’m going to sneak into the kitchen!
“There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will.” ~ Robert Frost
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

29 thoughts on “friday feast: good times at the frost place

  1. You and Jeannine! On your Frost pilgrimages. The mailbox!!! The sewing machine! I loved every inch of it and am ready to take my purse and move in. You-all certainly look comfortable there!

    The trees poem is bittersweet this morning as we lost the last of our Bradford pears last night in the storm. Now we have nothing in the front yard. No shelter from the sun, no privacy, and no whispering.


    1. Sorry to hear about the loss of your tree! Takes them so long to grow in the first place, and then to lose one just like that. Bradfords are notoriously fragile though. We lost ours at the old house too.

      We loved the Frost Place porch. The quiet was so different from Northern Virginia’s hustle and bustle. I wish I had taken a picture of the barn, though.


  2. I love everything about this post. So rich, moving, and beautiful. I enjoyed rereading this Frost poem as well. Here’s my favorite line though from your photo captions:
    “Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose into the world” – that elicited a hearty laugh from me, tired as I am this evening. 😉


  3. This brings back such lovely memories of the daytrips my husband and I took about fifteen years ago when we lived in Exeter, New Hampshire. We too spent a few restful moments on that porch.

    Thank you, Jama.


  4. Jama,

    Thanks for the Frost tour. The next time you come north to my neck of the woods, you, Grace Lin, and I should make plans to get together.

    P.S. I finally the fixed the link to your blog in my blogroll at Wild Rose Reader.


    1. Would be lovely to meet you and Grace sometime, Elaine! I did see Grace briefly last summer, but didn’t get to talk very much.

      Thanks for updating your blogroll!


  5. I, too, loved so much in this post: the poems, the quotes, the stairs, the day lilies, the peeks of you and your NH native. Forget the plaque, they should let Wendy, along with you, of course, into that kitchen! I think that should be a perk of the residency: you get to stay and write, and have breakfast served by Jama. Imagine all the applications. It might even entice me.


    1. LOL! I’m pretty sure Wendy’s already been in that kitchen. As for me, when I said I’d like to see the kitchen, it’s because I wanted to see where Frost and his family cooked and ate. And then I’d like to be served, not do the serving. I’m not a morning person at all, so serving breakfast to fine poets might be risky for them. 🙂 BTW, I think you should apply anyway.


  6. it’s odd, but quoting snippets of frost, more than any other poet, his words sound like modern soundbites. i shudder to think the great poets of our day will turn out to be the political speechwriters, but you’ve got me wondering now. i learned and memorized frost, sandburg, lindsey and some other early 20th century poets while in school. what more modern or contemporary poets are kids learning today? any?

    sorry, i know this strays a little, but i often find that poets words tend to do that, cause the mind to wander.


  7. Interesting reaction, David. Frost was all about the speech of common man; his artistry was neatly invisible, his truisms timeless. So I can see why you thought of modern sound bytes.

    Your comment about what contemporary poets kids are learning today made me think: what if tomorrow’s politicians approximate performance poets? what if they rap? 😀 Wait a minute . . . they already *are* performance poets.


  8. Jama, this pics are WONDERFUL! I’m with the majority here and love the mailbox especially. Also the sewing machine. Thanks for sharing! Oh, and your header is ADORABLE. xo


  9. Hi, Jama. I would love to visit some day. Thank you for the tour. There are some poets, like Frost, who share such a strong sense of place in their work. It’s great to see the photos.

    And — hey! — we have an identical sewing machine handed down through my husband’s family. Cool.


    1. Yes, you’re right — Frost’s work is definitely defined by a strong sense of place — what a love affair he had with NH and New England.

      My mom had a similar sewing machine too. I remember playing with the treadle when I was little. 🙂


  10. What a rich and thought-provoking post. Love the photos/quotes.

    I’m intrigued by the poet-in-residence that you mentioned in passing. How wonderful would THAT be (except for the tourists) to live in Frost’s house and write?!?! (We have a Thurber House writer residency here in Columbus. Would living there produce a different quality of writing??)

    Your post works nicely with Amy’s PF post at Poem Farm.


    1. I was wondering the same thing — would you write differently? Would you be intimidated at all? Still, it’s definitely an honor and a privilege to inhabit those walls for awhile and totally immerse yourself in his world. I remember when Lisa Yee was at the Thurber House. Totally cool.


  11. I’m such a Robert Frost fan. I’ve read so much about this place, but never visited. I clearly must.

    The poem and your thoughts about it hit me in just the right way today. Thanks for that.


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