Walking in the Footsteps of Robert Frost
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because he embodied New England like few other writers.
The woods are lovely, bright and deep. In my mind, I am in early 20th century New England, and Robert Frost’s steps are mine. Walk past the birches his daughter would swing on in the summers. Hear birds chirping and imagine them to be the wood thrushes of his letters. There, a mending wall: There, Hyla Brook. Then, two roads that diverge.
I came to see and feel what Frost, the four-time Pulitzer Prize–winning poet whose work embodied New England lore and nature, may have seen and felt. After all, this obscure Derry farm in New Hampshire is where Frost found his poetic voice, performing at churches and public gatherings in his 20s. It has the trappings of most ideal New England vacations, inspired by the region’s kaleidoscope fall colors, but with the bonus soundtrack of its most famous muse.
The experience is idyllic, like walking past Frost’s prose and into the actual chapters of his life. You see his writing desk, and the tour guide tells you about the late hours he kept and the way the neighbors thought he was a poor farmer for his late mornings. You see the rotary telephone and imagine him eavesdropping on those same neighbors, back when a dozen or so homes were all connected to the same party line — later, the practice helped to perfect his ability to capture local dialects. Although the tour guide mentions that these things, even some of his books, are “like” the ones Frost would have used — such subtle lies have a way of killing the authenticity vibe.
Still, there is magic. While leaving the Derry farm, the wind begins to pick up, carrying tufts of brown grass. And, I swear, they begin to dance in the air like dragonflies. Walking behind Frost, in awe of his poetry and the historic beauty of the Northeast, while also grappling with the distractions of my smartphone, the busy highway — it requires a suspension of disbelief. Similar to the creative patience required to appreciate poetry, actually.
When Frost returned to the States from England, he moved to Franconia, New Hampshire, two hours north from Derry. Here the fall leaves are as brilliant as advertised from the mountain-view porch of The Frost Place museum. The inside of the two-story home has newspaper clippings, photographs and letters by the bard himself. The real gem, though, is Poetry Trail, a half-mile backyard trail featuring plaques that display verses from Frost’s time in Franconia.
Walking quietly, his words take on a new serenity when read in such pristine nature. This too is a reminder that the world he saw is not mine: When Frost lived here, the land was almost all meadow. In recent years, it has reverted back to wildness, a product of tornadoes and time. Which makes his words particularly poignant: “So Eden sank to grief. So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”
Following in Robert Frost’s Footsteps
- Robert Frost Farm (Derry, New Hampshire): Tour the clapboard farmhouse, the museum and the forest behind the home he lived in from 1900 to 1911.
- Frost Place (Franconia, New Hampshire): Visit a museum and poetry education center in the White Mountains, where Frost lived from 1915 to 1920.
- Frost’s grave (Bennington, Vermont): See Frost’s grave near the home in Shaftsbury where he lived during the height of his career.