William Morgan: Beauty, coziness and an unsettling mystery near Monadnock

Thanksgiving is the quintessential picket-fence New England holiday – Christmas without the gifts and the guilt.

This year my wife and I braved 14º temperatures and barely plowed lanes to spend the holiday with friends in Dublin, N.H., at Mountain View Farm, known for having been the summer rental of Mark Twain in 1906. It sits at the base of the magnificent sleeping-lion form of Mount Monadnock.


At night, the only lights visible from here are those illuminating the ski slopes at Mount Wachusett on the southern horizon. A city dweller can get reacquainted with seemingly zillions of stars in the firmament.

Inside, burning fires, lots of good books, food and friends tamed the winter.


Our tribute to the holiday did include the smallest of Black Fridays in the nearby town of Peterborough, where we bought a book on wooden houses from The Toadstool, one of the region's great independent bookstores.

A further contribution to the local economy was a 50-cent purchase from a box of miscellaneous photographs at Bowerbird, an antiques shop.


This surprisingly bizarre document shows two couples, at the shore of a lake. The women's white dresses tell us that the picture was taken in the summer, and the Sunday-best clothes are from a particular year; "1925" penciled on the back of the photo might be a clue to the identity of these somewhat somber-looking vacationers.

Reminding one of a nearly century-old murder, the face of one of the women has been violently exorcised from the picture with scissors. Beyond the obvious mystery of why the lady was relegated to oblivion – divorce, another kind of breakup, jealousy? – is the creepier fact that the image was saved. Did the picture's owner paste it in an album, to bring out, perhaps on Thanksgiving, as a memory to be shared with family?

William Morgan, an essayist and architectural historian, taught the history of photography at Princeton University and is the author of Monadnock Summer: The Architectural Legacy of Dublin, New Hampshire, among other books.

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