Nearing the end of 2020, we are reflecting on a year like no other. As winter settles into the fields and woods around Steepletop, we feel fortunate to have such a supportive base of Friends who have continued to contribute to The Society during this time, enabling us to move our mission forward.
Looking back over the past months, I was struck by how my 2020 journey was one of both simplifying my life and reconsidering what did, or did not, make a difference in my ability to keep thriving. The process reminded me that Millay and Eugen lived at Steepletop without basic essentials, like electricity, until their last few years on the property. For most of her years of writing poetry, the poet relied on gas and candlelight.
We thought it would be fun to share the letter she wrote to lobby the then-Governor of New York for electricity to be installed after the war, in 1947:
Her appeal was answered, lines were installed on East Hill Road, and the power came on at Steepletop. Soon after, the Ladies Home Journal editors approached Millay with an offer to modernize the 1890 farmhouse kitchen to a state-of-the-art 1948 kitchen, complete with electric freezer and refrigerator—conveniences we take for granted today. Clearly Millay would have appreciated writing by electric light; we can only wonder what she thought of the other “miracle” appliances installed in her kitchen.
All these years later, after Millay’s sister Norma and her husband Charlie lived in the poet’s house for decades, the electric lines are still operating and the kitchen is very much like it was in 1948. Over the 2020 winter, we began modest steps in its refurbishment, with a full restoration slated for the future.
As this unprecedented year comes to a close, those of us on the Millay Board are grateful for the Friends of Millay and all of you who participated in our online Poetry Challenge. In 2021, we will continue to shape new strategies for moving forward as we begin to emerge from this challenging period. We very much look forward to being able to host another summer arts event on the property in 2021.
The support of our donors, the Friends of Millay, and others is vital in helping us keep Millay’s spirit and legacy alive and her home, gardens, and grounds at Steepletop preserved and protected for generations to come.
Please consider making a year-end donation to The Millay Society. Together let’s illuminate the work of a woman whose voice is as relevant now as it was during her heyday.
Thank you for helping to keep the lights on at Steepletop !
Vincent Elizabeth Barnett