Selasa, 28 September 2010

Living with Emerson's Ghost

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an article in The New York Times about a young couple who recently became the new caretakers of the Ralph Waldo Emerson House in Concord. They are both 27-years-old and, until recently, knew little about Emerson. The opportunity to live rent-free in a very cool place held obvious appeal, and now they are responsible for a household full of history: china, 127 mirrors, paintings, photographs, candlesticks, clocks, pin cushions, gardens, hedges, grapevines. It's a museum, but when the tourists leave, they get to have friends over! They drink wine in Emerson's house! They read and talk and laugh in the rooms where Emerson read and talked and laughed. They use his furniture!

About ten years ago, we were in Boston at the same time my mom and dad happened to be in Boston. They were visiting friends, and they were headed to Naulakha, Rudyard Kipling's house in Vermont. The home is owned by Landmark Trust USA, an organization that saves and protects historic properties. It's modeled after Landmark Trust in Great Britain, and it allows people to stay in these historic properties, surrounded by antiques and original furnishings. We wound up staying at Naulakha too, and it was wild and fantastic to sleep in that house, to eat there, to sit in Kipling's chair and read. Like the new caretakers of Emerson's house, we were trusted with that house. We were unsupervised, and had the the home to ourselves. We cooked, we explored, we read, we played pool on the third floor, we slept, and we left feeling as though we had acquired a strange new understanding of Kipling -- an intimacy I would not, previously, have thought possible. Landmark's founder seemed to recognize the appeal (and the advantage) of this opportunity when he said, "We believe that by using buildings in this way--where possible combined with ordinary public access--the maximum number of people get the most from them; and that many visitors who go just for a holiday come back with their interest aroused in what they have found there."

Andrea Lieberg, one of the new caretakers of the Emerson house, documents her experiences in a blog,, which is worth checking out. (I can't seem to create the direct link.)

And here, because I can't resist posting this too, is a picture of Naulakha:

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