To a Daughter, One Year Lost – from her father

Wilson Follett wrote an open letter to his daughter, anonymously; it was published in the May, 1941, issue of The Atlantic. I’m sorry the image is so small.

A year! It is very strange to reflect that two Christmases have come and gone, that the entire annus terribilis 1940 has been born and written its fearsome record and died, since any one of us who love you has clasped your hand or received a syllable written by it or unearthed the smallest clue to where you are, even to whether you are living or dead.

Any outright disappearance, even for a few hours or days, is incredible enough when it involves someone we have always known. We realize in a detached way that the Missing Persons Bureaus are called upon to interest themselves every year in a nondescript horde of our fellow citizens — eighteen thousand, is it? — of whom the majority have dropped out without a trace and will never be found. The knowledge is as irrelevant as the quantum theory when the void swallows up, not another anonymous statistical unit, but our own flesh and blood.

“But this is utterly different!” it is our first instinct to cry out to the level-voiced, stolid-faced official to whom (barring evidence of “foul play”) the whole thing is just the filling-in of one more printed form.… Read more

October 7-12, 1926: Franconia Range trip report

 

At Liberty Shelter: Franconia Range
October 7–12, 1926

OCTOBER 7th

On the seventh we started out from Little Sunapee, cobalt blue and fringed with scarlet wind-tossed maples and dark pines and spruces–on a curving road over gold-prinked hills, among the draping boughs and fiery leaves. It was up beyond Plymouth when sunset overtook us, a marvellous and bewitching sunset, which we caught glimpses of from time to time. First we saw it over Newfound Lake with its two green islets–there we saw a long low bank of yellow-russet clouds, edged on top with a brilliant gold cloud of sharp mountain-peaks. The sky had a rosy glow above the clouds, and in the north and south were high narrow tiers of pink. We longed for it, but we could not wait–it vanished behind dark trees. Suddenly they broke for a moment–we saw another and an entirely different sunset. Now the west was a maze of fire, and nearer us, partly covering it, were dark purple clouds–drifting about and changing. Again we saw it–there were brilliant russet tiers in the north–but the west was almost concealed by those same violet clouds, much thicker now, and breaking open sometimes and showing through arching windows the fire and glow and rosiness.… Read more

Travels Without a Donkey

In the summer of 1932, eighteen year-old Barbara Follett and her “semi-platonic” friend Nickerson Rogers quit New York City and headed to Maine with the plan of following (or semi-following) the nascent Appalachian Trail from its northern terminus at Katahdin as far south as they could get before winter set in. To make matters tricky, the AT had not yet been cut in Maine, so bush-whacking and guesswork were in order. Travels Without a Donkey recounts their adventures from Katahdin to Lake Umbagog on the New Hampshire border. They then continued their walk over the White Mountains and down Vermont’s Long Trail to western Massachusetts. They had been planning to hitch-hike to Tennessee to continue their journey along the AT, but something changed their minds and they sailed to Majorca instead, spending the winter of 1932 and most of 1933 exploring southern Europe.

“It’s spring,” Nick said.

In the very shadow of New York’s skyline, one solitary white crocus had blossomed in a scrawny patch of grass.

“What shall we do about it?” he demanded.

“What does anybody in New York do about it? Grin and bear it.”

“Come on, Bar–show a spark of life, old gal. I’m getting out of here this summer.”… Read more

October 4, 1932 – letter to A.D.R.

Dartmouth Outing Club
Moosilauke Summit Camp [New Hampshire]
October 4, 1932

Dearest ADR:

I have so much catching up to do that I’m not even going to try! Someday, though, I’ll tell you the things that have been happening—the curious, joyous upheavals my life has undergone, and the gipsy-like ways I’ve been living, and so on.

Right now my object is the transmissal of the enclosed letter to W. F. (which I should be glad to have you read if you care to). It may be that you have no idea whatever of his whereabouts. In that case, merely destroy it, as circumstances are not opportune for writing to him through Helen. If you can get the letter to him in any way, and if he answers it, I want the answer to come through you, as I don’t want just yet to give him the address which I’ll give you at the end of this.

All this sounds terribly complicated and mysterious, doesn’t it? But you see, I’ve jumped many hurdles of late, and want to be cautious. I’ve jumped the whole structure of what life was before: I’ve jumped the job, jumped my love, jumped parental dependence, jumped civilization—made a pretty clean break—and am happier than for years and years.… Read more

mid-late October, 1932 – letter to A.D.R.

℅ Howard Crosse
834 DeGraw Avenue
Newark, New Jersey
[undated, but ca. mid-late October, 1932]

Dearest ADR:

You wanted to hear from me promptly—right away, return air mail and all that. But, you see, in the rather odd kind of life I’m living right now, such things can’t be done. When your letter was forwarded to me, I was—well, where was I, anyway? Williamstown Mass., I guess—just in from a week’s stretch of Green Mountains. The next day we pulled out, hitch-hiking. I’m in New York now, at the apartment, but only till about tomorrow. Then I light out again.

Now I’m in Brookline, Mass., clearing up a few earthly details before sailing for a little island off the coast of Spain—if you can believe that! No wonder you are puzzled. The reason I didn’t try to go into any sort of detail in my first letter was that I wanted—well, to sort of feel around first, if you see what I mean.

However, before I go any further with this, I want to tell you how tremendously I was pleased with your news, which is at least as exciting as mine, only in a different way. That is, the good heart sings for you.… Read more

May 4, 1933 – letter to A.D.R.

Barcelona
May 4, 1933

Dearest ADR:

Your good letter came yesterday, and needless to say I’m tickled to hear that you aren’t sitting in the fig-tree, that you are all alive and well, and that the Wolf is house broken (Oh, most admirable phrase!)

I am sitting at a little table on the sidewalk, waiting for a train to France, which leaves in an hour and a half. Beside me sit a knapsack and a small suitcase—our total luggage.

You are absolutely right, my dear, in resenting my not having taken you more into confidence. Try to believe that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to tell you all about it, as that I was all up in the air myself, not sure just what was happening and not knowing where to start or what to say in any event. It is bewildering to completely change one’s life all in a minute. Do forgive me.

In brief, here is the story: I met this “mysterious figure N. Rogers” summer before last, when H. and I were living in that little cabin in Vermont. Then he showed up again that winter in New York, and we became good friends. He helped me through some trying times.… Read more

Letter to A.D.R., October 13, 1930

Old No. 620
October 13 [1930]

M’dear Mate:

I am taking advantage of this unfathomable holiday (Columbus Day, I think) to write to you. The last few days (extending from last Monday to last Saturday) have been as momentous as any days have been for a long time–in fact, so momentous that I haven’t recovered from their effects yet–not by a long shot. However, lest you die of suspense, let me proceed.

Monday, when I came home from school (this was a week ago exactly) I was informed by Helen that I had been solicited for a job, that she had accepted with alacrity for me (wise woman!) and that I was to go to work Tuesday afternoon, for half-time work indefinitely, along with school, you see. The office is the Personnel Research Federation, and the boss is an old friend (more or less) of the family.

So Tuesday afternoon (that’s enough excitement for one paragraph, don’t you think? that’s why I’m changing!) I wandered into this office with my school-bag in my hand and my only hat in (on, rather) my head. That hat was dug up in the New Haven panic, and is at least eight years old, but it was a twelve-dollar felt hat, and one advantage of them is that they LAST.… Read more

Letter to A.D.R., October 4, 1930

620 West 122nd Street
New York City
October 4, 1930

My dear Mate:

Your letter arrived here on Wednesday, the 24th of September. I remember that, because it was sent on the 22nd, and I remember my delight and amazement, and my admiration, too, for this world of wonders. A letter across the continent in two days? What next?!

I sat down at once and wrote an answer to it–yes, the very day I received it, mind you. Then, on reading my letter, it seemed too puny and putrid to exist, and hopelessly inadequate, so I tucked both your letter and my embryonic one away in a drawer. Then came the week-end–a week ago, and I firmly intended to answer you then. You see, Saturdays and Sundays are my only real days, and so I save up everything all week to do then, with the result that I get about half of the things done.

Well, I thought so very much about your letter, and my answer to it, that I thought myself into a state of believing that I had answered it, and it didn’t really occur to me until this morning that I hadn’t, and that my embryo was still lying in a drawer.… Read more

Letter to A.D.R., August 29, 1930

620 Etc
August 29 [1930]

Dear Mate:

Having allowed the dentist to put a gold inlay into a tooth, having written, delivered, and been paid for three synopses, having seen Helen off for New Haven again (thereby making three trips back and forth from here to town in the course of the day, via that devastating subway), and having, alone and in peace at last, partaken of my bowl of soup and crust of bread–having done all this, and being still quite alive, I will now proceed (oh, luxury!) to sit down and quietly, and in leisurely fashion, write a letter to you.

How I have chuckled over your contributions from Pasadena headline English! I would answer in kind, but I scan the papers in vain. New York headlinists don’t seem to have that ingenious knack of balling things up; in fact, for the most part they are altogether too lucid to be interesting. DRIVE CAR DEATH LEAP TIES UP TRAFFIC, is the best I can do, for the time being.

Dash it all, now that I’ve really sat down–after three days of trying to–there doesn’t seem to be anything more to say than there was last time or the time before, and one shouldn’t repeat oneself.… Read more

Lost Island, part 1

 

Here’s Chapter I of Barbara’s unpublished novel, Lost Island. All typos are mine. My plan is to post the thing in about fifteen parts, one or two per week.

I

Not even a cat was out. The rain surged down with a steady drone. It meant harm to New York and everyone there. The gutters could not contain it. Long ago they had despaired of the job and surrendered. But the rain paid no attention to them. It was bent on an errand of hate against the city.

Windows were gray and tight shut. There was one window fronted with a box of pansies, and behind the pansies, rather than behind the window, Jane Carey lived. There was nothing outside, this morning. Nothing but gray curtains hanging between the sky (was there really a sky?) and the flooded streets. Solid gray curtains, sometimes swaying ominously in the gusts of wind.

In New York people never lived in houses or even in burrows. They inhabited cells in stone cliffs. They timed the cooking of their eggs by the nearest traffic light. If the light went wrong, so did the eggs. All the cliffs were alike, and even all the cells.… Read more