Like my grandparents before me, we invite you to continue sledding on Kirk Hill 

To the Editor:
This year marks my great-aunt Margaret and great-uncle Luther’s 100th anniversary.

They were married in 1922 — with their reception in the parlor where my husband and I record and rehearse our music in a band so named after that room (outside the windows of which villagers sometimes stand in summer, listening graciously).

They left so much of themselves in this house, on this land. The pear trees, the jam jars, the handmade soldered metal shelves in the shed and seemingly every closet, the delicate wallpaper, the lilacs.

Luther lost his finger in World War I where he was an ambulance driver. They were friends in high school and corresponded throughout the war. She saved all his letters.

They had a child that died at birth. My grandmother’s sewing room, which is now my soap studio, was once painted pale pink for her. The little girl nearly took Margaret with her. I wish I knew what her name was.

Had that little girl survived, I very likely wouldn’t be the caretaker of this place. Instead, my grandfather moved into the house in 1974 to care for his aunt and uncle.

And, when we moved in 16 years ago, we reintroduced the concord grapes and my father told stories about the syrupy juice Aunt Margaret used to serve him.

We pruned up the pear trees and my mother remembered each fall when her family would drive to Altamont to pick up boxes of pear wood and bushel baskets of pears, individually wrapped in newspaper, that Aunt Margaret and Uncle Luther had set aside for them.

We stopped mowing the back garden and heirloom peonies grew from the soil.

It has been 16 years now that we have been caretakers of The Kirk Estate. Of bearing witness to the deer who descend the escarpment to browse on those same pears and apples from our small reclaimed orchard. Of watching generations of baby wild turkeys growing up on grasshoppers in the meadow. Of digging the soil and churning earth with the worms.

Making tracks in the dew on my way to the gardens, harvesting herbs before their tender oils evaporate from the sun. Drying them, stripping them, grinding them, blending them with oils and a basic solution — the way our great-great-grandmothers used to — to make into soaps and others into medicines.

Of making music and writing stories. Building porches and repairing outbuildings. Of planting trees and cutting trees down. Of paying respect to the agrarian, artistic, musical, self-reliant nature of our ancestors. Of watching leaves fall.

Sixteen years of winters, observing the escarpment descend into darkness. Of snowfalls on the back meadow and hillside. Of seeing your boot prints, snowshoe tracks, sled trails, cross-country ski paths, zigging and zagging over the field with that of the deer, the crow, and the fox.

Like my grandparents did before me, we again invite you to continue the tradition of sledding on the gentle incline we affectionately call Kirk Hill.

Jen O’Connor

Eric Krans


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