I have been in New Hampshire 13 years and I just learned this: my favorite poet, ee cummings, was a summer resident of Silver Lake, NH. In fact, his property – Joy Farm – is on the National Historic Register. As someone who gets goosebumps reading his work, how could I have not known he lived only a few miles from me?
I decided I needed to find Joy Farm. Silver Lake, and the town of Madison, is not far from here.
Born Oct. 14, 1894 and baptized Edward Estlin, Cummings began coming here as a small boy. His father, Dr. Edward Cummings, a Congregational minister, bought the property in 1899; it was called “Joy Farm” after its previous owner, Ephraim Joy, but as Cummings’ sister, Elizabeth, later wrote “it earned the name on its own account.” From his earliest years, Cummings had a deep love of nature, and the farm held a special place in his heart. As he once wrote to his mother, “I wouldn’t give an inch of New Hampshire for all the rest of New England.”
In 1936, Dr. Cummings was killed when the car he was driving was struck by a train at the crossing in Ossipee during a blinding snowstorm. Joy Farm eventually was deeded to his son, who returned there every summer for the rest of his life.
This story really should be called “Not Finding Joy Farm,” because while I found the property I did not see the house. Situated at the end of a dirt road, the property is posted with No Trespassing signs and I didn’t feel like taking the chance of finding a farmer with a shotgun at the other end of the road. I was disappointed; there was nothing tangible here to find. Joy Farm is now privately owned. Cummings was an intensely private man who savored his solitude and it was at Joy Farm and Silver Lake that he found that solitude which helped in the creation of many of his most famous works. That, at least, was easy to see: the location, the dirt road, the glimpses of Mount Chocorua all spelled out the perfect spot for a poet and artist to work.
So I came home not finding ee cummings but a little happier knowing that Joy Farm – the place where these words possibly were written – is right around the corner from where I live. As I’ve known all along, New Hampshire is a place that inspires creativity and allows dreamers to dream.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)