Mount Monadnock behind a field of lupines, near Jaffrey, New Hampshire
The Monadnock region of New Hampshire, where I have spent much of most every year of my life, and time each summer as a child (and for a brief time now), is defined by the Grand Monadnock. A monadnock is a geological term for an isolated hill or ridge that "rises above a peneplain." In other words, millions of years ago a massive glacier came down from what is now Canada and formed this great and singular mass of rock.
Mount Monadnock from the Sawyer Farm, Jaffrey, New Hampshire
Located in the southwestern part of the state, it has the classic mountain profile and is visible for miles. It is also the most climbed peak in North America and is protected by New Hampshire state park and protective easements. You can hardly drive around the region without seeing it. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it attracted writers to its foothills and summit including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Thornton Wilder and Willa Cather and artists such as George deForest Brush, Abbott Thayer and many others. There is a palpable energy around the mountain and this is likely what has drawn so many to the area in the past and continues to do so.
Mount Monadnock from Ingalls Road, Rindge, New Hampshire
Edith Lewis recalled her companion and Pulitzer prize-winning writer Willa Cather's love for Jaffrey and the mountain environs:
Of all the places Willa Cather knew and enjoyed during her life–and places, different kinds of country, were rather a dominant note in her scale of enjoyment–Jaffrey became the one she found best to work in. The fresh, pine-scented woods and pastures, with their multidudinous wild flowers, the gentle skies, the little enclosed fields, had in them nothing of the disturbing, exalting, impelling memories and associations of the past–her own past. Each day there was like an empty canvas, a clean sheet of paper to be filled. She lived with a simple sense of physical well-being, of weather, and of country solitude.[from Willa Cather Living, by Edith Lewis (Knopf: 1953) as quoted in New Hampshire Profiles, December 1955, pp. 17-19, by Elizabeth Yates McGreal]
Before her death, Cather requested that she be buried in the Old Burying Ground behind the Jaffrey Meetinghouse, in the shadow of the mountain and near where she had come for successive summers to write and to rest.
Monadnock, visible to the east in the far distance from a ridge in south central Vermont, and very near where our daughter now lives. I'm glad she can still see it.
While Monadnock looms above Jaffrey, my hometown, it isn't claimed by any town. It sits on land belonging to Marlborough, Troy, Jaffrey and Dublin and is a central fixture to a lovely, special part of the world. It is always good to see it and to know that it, unlike so many other things, never changes. [At right, purple mountain majesty at Sawyer Farm, Jaffrey, behind a granite stone wall.]
Mount Monadnock (in winter and from Harrisville) by William Preston Phelps (1848-1923) c. 1900, The Currier Museum of Art