Dear Friends of Millay
So much has changed since I last wrote to you in the late fall; it seems an eternity ago. Today we face a global health pandemic that brings uncertainty into all our lives.
Every day brings new challenges. Like the rest of the world, we have shifted our day-to-day operations to protect the well-being of our staff, and many of our plans for 2020 are on hold. Our volunteer social media team has been thinking of “poetic” ways to brighten our spirits, so please visit us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for bits of inspiration.
In my own meditation, I’ve found some solace in thinking about Steepletop: its rolling green fields, colorful flower gardens, the weathered wooden writing cabin surrounded by pines; Millay’s treasured books safe and sound in her library; and some special residents I’ll tell you about in a moment.
In June 1925, 95 years ago this spring, Millay wrote to her mother when she and Eugen arrived at Steepletop: “Dearest Mummie, Here we are, in one of the loveliest places in the world, I am sure, working like Trojans, dogs, slaves, etc., having chimneys put in, & plumbing put in, & a garage built, etc.--We are crazy about it-- & I have so many things on my mind at this moment that must be done before I’m an hour older,--you know how it is--that I hardly know if I’m writing with a pen or with a screwdriver.”
Preserving this “loveliest of places” is not only about keeping Millay’s literary legacy alive; it’s also about preserving the natural wonders that thrive there. Through a partnership with Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program, we learned that an abundance of poetically named rare species, like the Racket-tailed Emerald and Twin-spotted Skinner damselflies, make their home at Steepletop. It’s also the only site in Columbia County hosting the butterfly known as Coral Hairstreak, and one of the few where rare dragonflies and the Grey Comma and Aphrodite Fritallary butterflies can be found. (You can download the full Hawthorne Report below).
I have faith that together we will weather the current global crisis and be able to gather and commune once again at Steepletop with the Coral Hairsteak, Grey Comma, and Twin-spotted Skinner.
More to come as we make our way forward. As Millay wrote in 1950 (about living in postwar America):
From the apprehensive present, . . .
Let us turn for comfort to this simple fact:
We have been in trouble before … and we came through.
Vincent Elizabeth Barnett
ps. A very special thanks to Conrad and Claudia Vispo of the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program for their years of research and education at Steepletop and for compiling this fascinating document.