Thursday, January 21, 2010

Link and Holly

by Ira Smith

One summer morning in 1984, staying
with Mother in Westport,
while walking up from the beach,
Hildegarde (Hilly), Lincoln Barnett’s widow,
invited me in to see her remodeled kitchen.
We visited for a bit and she asked me,
“Have you ever seen Link’s office?”
I didn’t admit that I hadn’t set foot
in their modest house in thirty years.
Link had been gone for five,
Hilly was lonely.

An old-fashioned wrap-around porch
was his office: enclosed and winterized,
with railing to ceiling picture windows
facing Lake Champlain;
floor to ceiling bookcases
lined the original exterior walls.
A 12’x3’ slab of wood hinged
to the railing was his desk.
An 8x10 framed photograph of Link
arm-in-arm with Fred Astaire in a dancing pose
was among the sparse memorabilia.
She invited me to sit in his
high back leather, swivel chair.
Hilly reminisced, “In his last years
Link loved to recline in this chair and
between occasional snoozes, drink in Lake Champlain
and Vermont’s Green mountains beyond.”

Hilly gave me the latest paperback edition
of Link’s famous 1948 “The Universe and Dr. Einstein.”
She still gets royalties – more than a million sold,
in twenty-five languages, required reading
in college literature!

A privilege to stand on another person’s
hallowed ground; though austere in d├ęcor,
this working refuge was deeply inspirational.
The lap-lap of the waves against the shore,
the swing and sway of the maple limbs,
the thrust and glide of the passing gull
supplied silent background rhythm and harmony
while journal notes and research data
were crafted into elegant composition.

* * * * * * * * * *

Received my first autographed gift from Link when I was
eighteen, its importance to me deceived by his humility
and modest living:
“The Universe and Dr. Einstein.”
For Ira D Smith Jr.
with the best wishes of his neighbor –
Lincoln Barnett
Westport N.Y. – January 31, 1949

Twenty-five years later, received another autographed gift
from Link, with a much greater sense of treasure. I remember
him coming across the lawn from his house to hand it to me.
“The Ancient Adirondacks”
For Ira D. Smith Jr.
with every good wish
from his long-time Adirondack
friend and neighbor –
Lincoln Barnett
Westport, N.Y. – July, 1974

His words became a deep inspiration for my own unpublished
“My Beloved Wilderness Journal”

Link was born on February 12, 1909, Abraham Lincoln’s
birthday, and died September 8, 1979. The local headline:
“Renowned Adirondack Writer,
      Lincoln Barnett Dies.”

My awareness of the depth of Link’s accomplishments had to
wait for his eulogy. He was editor and foreign correspondent
for Life Magazine during World War II.

He wrote several profiles on prominent people such as
Fred Astaire, Ernie Pyle and Bing Crosby in his book,
“Writing on Life.”

Einstein wrote the foreword for the
“Universe and Dr. Einstein,”
an unprecedented act for him.

At that time, the scientific community considered it the
best possible interpretation of Einstein’s work.
He won the National Book Award in 1950.

Ira Smith©2010


  1. Timothy B said...
    Ira what a lovely piece of writing. My brother Robby and I both inherited our parents great love of the Adirondacks. Our father loved gathering information but found writing a daunting task. The researching and writing of The Ancient Adirondacks gave him more pleasure than any other book he had written.
    I remember you and your father and mother while. What a magnificent garden you had.

  2. What an amazing tribute to an inspirational mentor. Ira, this is a beautiful piece of writing. Your description of place - his office and the surroundings outside- draw the reader immediately within. One could feel the warmth and welcoming of the hostess. The history of the man, that surrounded the rest was fascinating. All and all a wonderful piece, a gift to his family and all of us!