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In Spirit

Three Sisters

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I love the light at this time of year.  Throughout the day, the acute angle of the sun bathes the trees and garden in a pinky-gold, giving even our contemporary cave an antique atmosphere.  I think it’s that sepia glow that always gets me wondering about the property’s previous caretakers.

Thing 1’s history project a couple of years ago put a new perspective on my wonderings by sparking an interest in genealogy.  We were looking for Revolutionary war figures to report on  and shaking the family tree a little helped a few ideas fall out.  I began tracing the rest of the family tree and soon found that the Big Guy’s – and our kids’ –  connection to Vermont went farther back with even more branches than we had anticipated.

The most intriguing and mysterious inquiry has been the search for a Native American great-grandmother’s (Alice Fox) roots.  We had pictures and family memorabilia to track some of her history.  Unfortunately, history and history of record-keeping make tracing Native American ancestors a unique challenge.  Even when we lose her trail, however, our collective curiosity about the area’s first people spur us to follow in her – or their – footsteps when and where we can.

Most of my garden is an evolving science project, often mimicking different early New England layout we’ve seen on one of our Saturday drives.   But even before I went looking for Alice, one of our trips introduced me to the Three Sister’s Gardens popular among the Iroquois and other tribes in this area.  Consisting of squash, beans, and corn, they provide a perfect balance for the soil and the humans it feeds, and it has been in use in this area since people first appeared here.

My Three Sisters gardens are practical – with few exceptions they are incredibly productive.  But they are also my way of being mindful of the people who were here and of the gifts they left us.  Now, as the pumpkins gleam in the golden light and the bean pods and corn stalks dry, I think about Alice’s trail yet again.  I don’t know how much of her history I can give my kids, but in honoring the memory and contributions of her branch of the tree, I hope I’m giving my kids a special connection to the land we will pass on to them one day.