Cogswell’s Grant was the summer home of renowned folk art collectors Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little. The colonial-era farmhouse is a rich backdrop for their celebrated collection, assembled over nearly sixty years.
The Littles purchased this 165-acre property overlooking the Essex River in 1937 and carefully restored the 1728 farmhouse. The rooms are overflowing with “country arts” including folk art portraits, painted furniture, redware, hooked rugs, weathervanes, and decoys. Everything is arranged just as the family lived with it and shared it with their friends and fellow collectors.
Cogswell’s Grant was the perfect setting for the Littles’ antiques, but was also important as a working farm and family retreat where they relaxed and entertained. Today it is one of the only places where you can visit such a collection in the home for which it was collected.
Beyond these protective trees the tidal marsh opens out to embrace a large estuary drained by the Essex River.
My most recent visit was on a Monday when the house was closed and the property blissfully deserted. The wild flower fields were alive with a chorus of crickets and the sky was swept clear by September’s blustering winds, exposing a polished blue sky where great white herons glided serenely.
On my way to the salt marsh I took a half hidden path cutting through the narrow border woods where I came across an old farm dump. The rusted fender of an abandoned farm truck struggles to free itself from the blanket of loamy mulch that is threatening to relegate the once fast moving vehicle to the shadows of time.
Half hidden in the rusted oak leaves of September, a cluster of black winged crows with strident voices interrupt the silence for a moment of argument before they fly off, their noise easily absorbed by the vast expanse of the open salt marsh where rippling ell grass dances with the wind. On a naked branch of a heavy muscled oak tree I catch sight of a red tailed hawk stoically ignoring the crows. Beneath his perch in the dried grass at the edge between the woods and the wetland I was startled to come across a tangle of scattered feathers, the apparent result of the swift winged hunter.
The bright sun and clusters of goldenrod flowers smile at one another as the eel grass, whip lashed by the capricious wind, begs for attention.
An old tree reaches out with ziz-zaging branches over the shoreline of the marsh, following the currents of wind and water – laughing and crying in turn – as the seasons toy with his strength.
The Horseshoe crab, scion of an ancient line, living fossil, comes to rest above the tide. His ancestors were here 450 million years ago but their bronze polished armor is now losing strength against the “footprint” of humanity. Our tread is so heavy – our hunger so great.
A gap between the farm fields and the marshlands is where infinite shades of green pulsate against the radiant blue sky.
The receding tide leaves baby crabs tangled in needle grass where blasting sunshine quickly steals their life, crisping soft shells bleach to immutable ghosts.
The patterns of high tide currents are caught and recorded in the swirls of needle grass where the bleached shells of tiny crabs mark the edge of moon’s gravity.
For a moment, silence grabs my attention as my mind expands beyond the limits of blue skies
Cow licks of needle grass catch a drifting oak leaf
Flashes of mauve / lavender, scattered jewels enliven the emerald carpet of densely woven marsh grass.