Howard Mansfield is in many ways a knowledge seeker. Through his writings, the author of Hancock “sifts through the mundane and oblivion to discover stories that speak to us about ourselves and our place in the world.”
In Mansfield’s latest book, âChasing Eden: A Book of Seekers,â he focuses on three topics that many in the country’s history have pursued for generations – God, freedom, peace. It’s also about the pursuit of happiness and that longing for a promised land, a utopia somewhere in the world just waiting to be found.
âI want to find out the truth and tell the right part of the story,â Mansfield said. “What are we looking for? Do we even know?
Each topic – God, Freedom, Peace – has its own section in “Chasing Eden” and is divided into two chapters, each describing a specific story.
âI didn’t really mean to write about the Shakers,â Mansfield said. But it was too important a story not to tell.
In “No Good is Ever A Failure” – The Believers at Twilight, you are introduced to Bud Thompson. Thompson, as Mansfield put it, is in charge of the Shaker Museum in Canterbury after spending 31 years of his life in the field. Thompson âhas been a researcher his entire life,â Mansfield said, and it was his quest for old songs that led him to the Shaker sisters.
Thompson helped the Shakers through their twilight years, which translates into a history of devotion true to the early Shakers.
“We Are Still in Eden” – Awe on the American Plan is the story of the famous 19th century White Mountain painters, who sought to capture the true beauty of what was once a very distant existence.
âThese painters taught Americans to see the Earth,â Mansfield said. “But what did they want to find up there?” What did they want from these mountains?
Mansfield traveled to northern New Hampshire with his friend James Aponovich in search of the scenes that appear in these great landscapes, much like so many others did decades before, in search of an experience in the White Mountains.
The 1949 film “Lost Boundaries”, based on a story of the same title was a non-fictional account of Dr. Albert C. Johnston and his family, and the first chapter of Seeking Freedom. Johnston eventually found himself in Keene, but his story of landing in the Southwestern town is full of secrets and a burning desire to simply be accepted for his abilities as a medic and not judged on color. of his skin.
“What does he want?” Mansfield asks. âHe wants to be respected and what is best for his family. It’s a famous story that more people should know about.
At the end of the Civil War, 40,000 Africans newly freed from slavery were granted possession of forty acres and a mule by a Civil War General and Secretary of War.
In “Forty Acres and A Mule” – The Promised Land Denied, you learn about the rapid change of course that leads to their confiscation of their land in a matter of months by another general and a new president.
âIn each chapter, a deeper sense of what’s going on comes to me,â Mansfield said.
The idea of ââpeace is always linked to the act of war and in Seeking Peace, Peace By the Quarter Acre is a story of WWII veterans, those who grew up during the Great Depression, who returned home after the end of the fighting, ready to make a living in the suburbs. It is a real “collision between peace and war, the American dream and the protest, children and parents”.
âIt’s about this division of peace that ends up breaking down,â Mansfield said.
The Thanksgiving story that many learn in school, The First Thanksgiving “is more false than true,” Mansfield writes.
It’s simply a fable, turned into Thanksgiving history, that blinds us to the ingratitude and wars behind the holidays and the founding of our country.
âHow that’s not all we think it was,â Mansfield said.
For Mansfield, it’s about taking a story and getting to the bottom of it.
âI’m interested in looking at things, discovering stories that we thought we knew, but not really,â he said.
It’s about figuring out what is included in these stories and what is left out.
âI always try to immerse myself in the stories,â he said. “Trying to follow my curiosity all the time.”
He looks for the real actions behind what created the world he lives in.
âThis is about what I know about it and whether the opposite is true,â Mansfield said. “And what is the absolute core of why I find this so interesting.”
“Chasing Eden” is now available through Bauhan Publishing. Mansfield will be at the Toadstool Bookstore in Peterborough on Saturday, October 23 at 11 a.m. to read his latest book and answer readers’ questions.
To learn more, visit https://bauhanpublishing.com/shop/chasing-eden/ and https://www.howardmansfield.com/.