Robert Frost Museum and Grounds

Robert Frost Museum and Grounds

We set out this morning (8/6/14) for Shaftsbury, Vermont, to visit the home of American poet Robert Frost. Last time we were in town, the museum was closed, so I was looking forward to seeing it. It definitely wasn’t up to my expectations. The Museum is, by admission of the curator, a “museum for adults.” I’d up the ante and say it’s a museum for scholars. Having grown up going to more museums than I can tally, I know the difference between a good museum and a bad one. This one is in definite need of a make-over.

Robert Frost quote in my classroom

Robert Frost quote in my classroom

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets. His “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was the first poem I ever learned, while his “Road Not Taken” graced my classroom wall for 10 years. The entire scope of the museum consists of 3 pieces of Frost Furniture and 7 Panels with minimal pictures and TONS of writing. We knew something was up when the couple leaving the museum at 10:10 (The museum opens at 10:00) failed to answer when we asked how it was–but maybe they didn’t hear the question. The Museum curator stated that they desire to “Let Frost speak for himself.” That’s all well and good–if you like reading. For my mom, who is dyslexic (though does take the time to read everything), or many of my students, who either don’t like reading or struggle with it, Frost is not going to GET to speak. He will be “lost in translation.” We offered a few suggestions: podcasts, audio tours, QRL’s…, but it seems this museum is committed to staying a museum, with all the connotations that implies. My fear is it will become as inaccessible as Frost’s “Stone Wall.”

The Stone Cottage

The Stone Cottage

The information is great, however, for those who will take the time to read it. There were hand written notes, letters about his family’s 17 day 225 mile hike on which his boots only allowed him to hike 125 miles (I can’t imagine!) I learned about Frost’s own tragedy–his first son died at four. It shares his fears that he would be nothing more than a name on a gravestone (That ongoing longing to be remembered that I discussed in Search for Significance.) There are many fascinating jewels amidst the wall panels. As one who loves to “Stand on the ground,” it was amazing to stand in the room in which Frost wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

His "name on a stone"

His “name on a stone”

(I also learned he wrote it in June after being up all night.) So there are many fun facts for those willing to take the time to glean answers. My favorite gem was an interview Frost did in which someone asked the question, “How long does it take to write a poem?” His response: “Not long to write them, but it takes a long time to live them.” This reminds me of one of my favorite things about poetry–that every poem is a felt idea. Each one recollects some experience or idea of the author that he or she hopes will resonate with others. In this way, Frost truly does continue to connect with readers. One cool thing the Museum offers is a series of lectures on a variety of Sundays in the summer. These are free to the public and offer additional insight into the life of Robert Frost.

Since the Museum and grounds didn’t take us long, we decided to explore the area. We headed first to Bennington Battle Monument. I’m ashamed to say I do not recall having ever learned anything about the Battle of Bennington, which was a “pre-turning point” to Saratoga in the American Revolution. At 306 feet, it is Vermont’s tallest structure. So what happened at Bennington to make it worthy of such a monument?

Bennington Battle Monument and sculpture of Captain Seth Warner

Bennington Battle Monument and sculpture of Captain Seth Warner

Bennington was the supply station for the military. General Burgoyne (British) knew this and made it a target on his way to Saratoga to try to accomplish the “Divide and Conquer” strategy the British had to win the war. American general Stark, who had resigned from the military due to being passed over for promotions, came back to the field to lead, as long as he could take orders from New Hampshire, not the Continental Congress (who’d refused his promotion.) The legendary Green Mountain Boys (finally, I’m making the connection that Vermont is the Green Mountain State…) also played a large role in the War, but in this battle, just their captain, Seth Warner, came. These forces were able to soundly defeat Burgoyne, who then had to continue to Saratoga without the supplies he sought in Bennington. His men were also psychologically affected by the loss, which may have set them up for another loss in Saratoga. Apparently, Vermont has a tradition of playing a large role in military engagements. During the Civil War, 10% of Vermont’s population served in the military in the Civil War–the largest per capita of any state. They also made the machines that produced the gun powder used in the war, as well as the ore for horseshoes. This little state packed a big punch!
Bennington Cemetery--Flags mark Revolutionary graves

Bennington Cemetery–Flags mark Revolutionary graves

From the Monument, we went to the Old Congregational Church in Bennington. This church has the grave of Robert Frost, but it offers many other cool historical connections. It was on this location that 109 delegates, one from each county, met to vote to ratify the Constitution of the United States–103 voted yes. Additionally, the cemetery has a huge collection of Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves. It’s an incredible place to poke explore. Though we had had relatives who fought in the American Revolution–one even with the Green Mountain Boys–I don’t believe we had any buried there. It would have been fun to hunt down the stories of the men buried here. But, for today, we went to visit Robert Frost and journeyed on.

Jarvis Rockwell's piece

Jarvis Rockwell’s piece

Our next stop was the Bennington Museum, which is not closed on Wednesdays in the summer, despite that information on the website. This museum houses a large collection of Grandma Moses art, in addition to a number of other works of art and artifacts. First, though Grandma Moses is an American icon, she’s never been one of my favorites–I prefer realism and impressionism. Her work is a little too “modern” for me–meaning the people and animals vaguely resemble themselves, but more like what a fifth grader might do. Apologies to any of her greatest fans, she’s just not my favorite. But, there are a number of other really cool pieces of furniture, sewing machines, lace works, and other items that were really neat. There’s even a large collection of weaponry and a display explaining the Battle of Bennington. They also have a great genealogical library, where we looked up a bit of information on our relatives. One interesting find was a picture and wall designed by Jarvis Rockwell, Norman’s artist son I had just learned about! I’m still not a fan of modern art, though.

Henry Bridge

Henry Bridge

We headed out of town to check out some of the famous Vermont covered bridges. My favorite was the Henry Bridge. It’s also the easiest to photograph, with the best pullout and even a picnic area. After taking a few pictures, we set off for the Apple Barn, one of my mom’s favorite places. This country store has a number of amazing products. We left with chocolate chocolate chip pancake mix, buy one get one free pumpkin butter, apple cider doughnuts, maple sugar, maple syrup, and peaches. As we were walking out, we noticed the blueberry patch behind the store. Mom went in and asked about picking some, and we were told we could pick some for free because of our purchase! So, we topped the day off with two buckets of blueberries!

Looking forward to heading to Plymouth tomorrow!

Advertisements