The History of Wonderwell:
The House and the Family that Built and Loved it
By Megan Carnarius
2021 Rosehip Press, Boulder CO
To us out of the crucible of this pandemic comes The History of Wonderwell, a thoughtfully curated volume of photographs, artifacts and writing, narrating the lives of our beloved mountain refuge and the family that built her.
Author Megan Carnarius, great granddaughter of the extraordinary Nell Stoddard, whose vision it was to build Wonderwell in 1910, traces for us a particularly American family history. From the Mayflower meeting of John and Priscilla Alden, to the 1918 pandemic that claimed the life of Nell’s husband, Joseph, to the Crash of ‘29 that forced her to sell Wonderwell for just $2,000.
And to illustrate her many charming anecdotes, a treasure trove of photographs and artifacts. We see the whole Dartmouth football team, arrived by sleigh for a weekend. Croquet on the lawn, bathing parties, and girls in long white dresses. A carefully penned child’s note delighting in the little yellow birds all in a tree, and in playing the “hole” day long—such joy, then and now.
The construction of Wonderwell too is documented, from groundbreaking to the “crowning project” of her mandala garden, and the July 4th snowstorm that blew through her unfinished walls. Your experience of these images will be one of recognition, of a favorite window seat, a massive oak door. Or perhaps one of surprise to learn that a tiger once lay where you last placed your cushion. It will be one of love and a deepened sense of stewardship to read Lama Willa’s account, summed up by the author: “Wonderwell was rescued in 2011.”
The History of Wonderwell is about the family that built and once loved her, but it is for those that care for and love her now. Enjoy!
Copies of the book will be available at Wonderwell during onsite retreats and at Dharma Sundays and online here.
Thanks to Andrea Redican for this review.