This was actually the first time I ever met Kit, even though our family has been hiking on his property for years. When we stumbled across him on our most recent trek across his turf, we were all thrilled to meet the mysterious man of the mountain.
According to my Pop-Pop (which is from memory – we apologize if there are any errors in this!), Kit was born in Japan, which is the root of his affinity for Oriental structures – particularly the pools and statues found in one region of his property. He eventually migrated to New York City, where he was one of the photographers for a “little” show called Candid Camera (ever heard of it?). They lived in an apartment in Greenwich Village, spending their summers in Vermont.
Somewhere around 40 years ago, he and his wife purchased roughly 450 acres of land in Hubbardton, Vermont. Kit began to create trails, Oriental gardens, pools, and a hydraulic system that brings water from a stream running across the property to maintain the pools. Since purchasing the property, he has made it his one purpose to protect the land, and to share it with the world. He established and continues to maintain the trails completely by himself. Inquiries with the Nature Conservancy led to the discovery that while his property is remarkable, it does not contain enough unique habitats/species to receive aid in making it a wildlife preserve, and other organizations are up to their ears in maintaining the numerous trails that make Vermont the beautiful state that it is.
So Kit keeps on alone, with occasional help from neighbors and family.
He and his wife continued to winter in New York, migrating back and forth, until just recently when they finally gave up their home in Greenwich Village and began spending winters two hours north of Hubbardton in Burlington.
(For some of you wondering, why winter elsewhere? Spend a winter in Vermont, particularly in a small, isolated town at a high elevation down a driveway several miles long…and you’ll be convinced you want to winter elsewhere too.)
As you can tell from the photo, Kit is way beyond the normal age of maintaining several hundred acres of property on his own, and yet he continues. When we ran into him, we were able to chat with him for a bit before he moved on to continue checking the trails.
To speak with someone so absolutely dead set on protecting the property for the enjoyment of future generations was incredible. We found out that he has actually finally been able to enter negotiations that would allow the property to be turned over to the Vermont Land Trust, which was the best news he hoped for. He said he had considered trying to sell the property to another private owner, but couldn’t bear the thought of that owner someday selling the property to some rich city-dweller who would spend a month at the property and then leave it to grow over the rest of the year, not being shared with anyone.
And that’s one thing that is so remarkable about Kit. His passion is to share his beautiful property with anyone and everyone who will come. He openly publicizes the acreage, encourages the Green Mountain Club to have annual gatherings there, and doesn’t worry one bit about the legal liabilities that are opened up when allowing visitors onto private property.
Growing up with my grandparents, avid nature enthusiasts and dedicated members of the Nature Conservancy, I was raised to have a mean green-streak in me. Conserving the intricate and awe-inspiring wildlife we have been blessed with strikes a chord deep within my soul, and it was a breath of fresh air to briefly encounter someone like Kit, who so humbly gives himself and his work to the community. Who recognizes the gift we have been given with the natural world despite the overwhelming trend of our society to destroy the environment surrounding us without a forward thought.
Going green is a huge trend right now, and there are so many ways to do it. Green cleaners, organic farming, all-natural products. All of which are wonderful things. But I encourage you to go to the heart of the matter and to find little essence of Kit inside of you. Open your eyes the grandeur of seemingly simple surroundings. Remember to respect your environment everyday, even when that trash can seems too far away and sitting in front of the television is much easier than going outside for a walk or gardening. Remember to share enthusiasm for beauty around you with everyone you meet, and to share your passions as well. Like we say over and over on this blog…
“Don’t ask what the world needs.Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”