239 Days in America

A Social Media Documentary following 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912

July 26, 1912
Dublin, NH
Storify Feature

A Sleepy Morning in Dublin, New Hampshire

THE SUN RISES on Dublin Lake, illuminating the western shore. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is already awake.

Throughout Dublin there are stirrings of the sleepyheads, their linens now tangled in untidy heaps. On the south shore of the lake, the cold and damp air has roused the family of Abbott Thayer, artist, naturalist, ornithologist. A strong believer in fresh air and toughening of the person, Abbott requires that his family and any guests sleep in open-sided huts, even in the winter. Paintings adorn his studio and bird skins carefully set by pins lie in ordered trays on the bench.


Along the shore, at Loon Point, where the land juts into the lake, among his carefully crafted Italianate and oriental gardens, through his Moon Gate, Joseph Lindon Smith, artist, archaeologist, imagines his next literary piece to be acted in Teatro Bambino, a theatre he has created among the trees.

Knollwood, the estate of Franklin MacVeagh, Secretary of the Treasury, sighs beneath the weight of government. The Cabinet meets in the Cape Cod across the lawn from the main house. His nephew Charles, and Charles’s family, are staying for the summer.

Across the lake on the north side at Beech Hill, Amy Lowell, the poetess, stirs her large frame. She will not be rising for some hours yet: she works all night and sleeps all day. Her pack of cigars lie open and welcoming by her side. Here she writes her poems of Dublin. It is said that she sleeps on a custom-made bed with exactly sixteen pillows. Later in life she will say of Keats: “The stigma of oddness is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius.”

Abbott Thayer — whom we have just met — is a bit of a recluse, but his friend George De Forest Brush is not. George the acclaimed painter, his daughters Nancy and Mary, guest Margaret Sanger, and maybe more tucked away in this sociable family, will come down to breakfast on time at Brush Farm so as not to keep mother and cook waiting.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá is staying on the Parsons’ estate, on the east side of the lake, near Knollwood and Brush Farm. The Parsons have three houses: Stonehenge, Ty-ny-maes, fondly called Tiny May, and Day-Spring, the double-gabled three-storey “cottage” with Doric columns, which Agnes Parsons had readied for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. From one side of the balcony is a wide view across the fields and on the other can be seen the mountain ranges disappearing into the distance. This morning he will walk in the “bird cage,” a grove of trees where the birds feed, cool and quiet, with the smell of pine beneath his feet.

It is here, in Dublin, that the rich and famous from Boston and Washington spend their summers. But they do not entertain in grand and glittering style as would those who live near the Vanderbilts in Newport, Rhode Island. The Dubliners spend their evenings around open fires discussing politics, literature, music, and art.

Agnes Parsons wants to keep ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arrival a secret so he can rest. She will succeed for twenty-four hours. Then the continuous stream of visitors will begin.


* We wish to offer our deepest thanks to Fraser Whitbread, a Calgary-born naturalist, botanist, photographer, now transplanted to New Hampshire, for permission to use his beautiful image of the sunrise over Mount Monadnock. You can see more of Fraser’s astounding work here or read his Flickr profile. If you pay attention, you might even meet his red Saab convertible — her name is Sally.


  • Tapio from Finlad

    Main stream is seing new things as ‘odd things’. Greetings from the neighboring country of Volvo factory!

    • Karridine

       Greetings Tapio!  Finland is a beautiful nation of wonderful, courageous people…

  • Bahaiwoman99

    This is a very inspiring piece…..encouraging us all to listen to our own hearts and “march to our own drummers”.  This is as true today as in the time of Abdu-l’ Baha’s visit 100 years ago.  This is an eternal Truth.

  • Nicole

    To many in the West, the Baha’i Faith may seem odd, with all the unfamiliar words and names and Writings and the different types of gatherings we hold (Feast, deepenings, Spiritual Assembly meetings, Holy Days, etc.).  But to others, the Baha’i Faith is pure “genius,” a divine revelation from God.  It’s a matter of how someone perceives it with their inner eye.  As Amy Lowell noted, a myopic world (i.e., those who are short-sighted and unable to see distant objects) may look at something like the Baha’i Faith and find it “odd.”  But I think what they need are a good pair of glasses to help them see correctly!

    • 239Days

      I remember my first encounter with the Baha’i Faith, when a saw a prayerbook laying on a table with the word “Baha’i” (which I couldn’t pronounce) written on the front. To a 12-year old lad raised on the Bible, it wasn’t much different than looking at random letters thrown together. Man, what a long way I’ve come since then.

      You may not be aware, however, that not everyone who reads this blog is a Baha’i. For those of us who have been Baha’is for years (decades in my case!), a lot of the concepts and language aren’t just old hat – they define how we think. On the other hand, for someone who is new to Abdu’l-Baha and the Baha’i Faith, the experience of finding it odd doesn’t necessarily mean they’re seeing it incorrectly. Everyone has their own personal experience as they encounter new things (not just the Baha’i Faith) and come to it in their own way.Corey

      • Karridine

         Well put, Corey… the Romans in the first century after Christ’s ministry heard Christian terms and Christian beliefs as ‘odd’, ‘eastern’, ‘foreign’ and ‘strange’…

        Called by the Holy Spirit, SOME were attracted, chosen to serve, and ‘make-sacred’ (sacrifice) their preconceived notions, their personal discomfort and -in some cases, their lives- as they wrestled with new concepts of life, personal responsibility, submission to the Will of God and the true life of the believer…

        So if this Baha’i ‘thing’ seems ‘odd’ at first, take heart, you’re in good company…

    • Karridine

       How many the ‘believers’, of ALL the major preceding religions, who profess to and believe in their hearts that ‘If I had been alive when He was alive, I would have recognized and bent my will to His, bent my knee to Him…’

      And yet, now that he is here, now that He has come, their very words and beliefs bear witness to and pass judgment on the falsity of their hearts, the centrality of their self-made idols and the emptiness of their lives…

      • Carrie

        The culture of criticism and fault-finding is very sad indeed

  • Arcpeace

    This recollection of the Master’s visit to America has been an uplifting moment each and every day. I feel transported back and wonder what it must have been like to be so close to our Master. To know that he had the pleasure of walking in the woods listening to bird song and taking in the pleasures of New Hampshire seems to linger even now 100 years later.  As a former New Hampshire resident I can truly imagine this walk and see the morning sunrise.  Thank you for creating this vehicle to help the friends to envisage those blessed days.

  • shahla

    In more recent times, we witness attitudes contrary to what’s described in the sentence:  Extremely odd behavior, especially in celebrity, is often glorified; there is fascination with and focus on celebrity, and those labeled “genius” (frequently celebrity) often engage in destructive behavior (to themselves and others).  However, consistent adherence to ethical norms is often seen as “odd”, and of course, any belief system other than majority (traditional) religion is odd or a cult.

    • Karridine

       “The soul is helpless in the presence of BEAUTY…”

      But today, what we witness is all too often the celebration of UGLY… intentional breaking of lines of beauty, intentional DYS-phonia, DIS-harmony, incompleteness, incoherence and, all in all, UGLINESS…

      But I have faith in humankind… this popular fascination with pop divas, profanity-laced ‘songs’ and other emanations of disturbing, discomfiting dis-ease… will swing back to beauty, precisely BECAUSE ‘the soul is helpless in the presence of beauty…’ and humans prefer loving, adoring appreciation to strident discord…

  • kim

    We are all getting odder by the minute. Living in America is great for this reason too…One can be odd, and that oddness is often treasured by others, and is sometimes challenged by others. Diversity makes this country rich! The artists are always pushing the norm, and that great push is so necessary to the evolution of consciousness in man. 

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