Prologue

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Beatrix Potter called her wonderful cottage home in Near Sawrey, Hill Top Farm, and when we first purchased our hilltop parcel, I thought about calling the home we’d build Hilltop too. I still own the first of Potter’s ‘little books’ that was given to me more than 50 years ago, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. And then, though I’m not certain why, I began collecting Beatrix Potter paraphernalia during my teenage years — more of the books, Beswick figurines, etc. — and I’d decided well before we ever conceived children that the nursery would be Beatrix Potter-themed (and, it was!). The fascination with all things BP persisted over the years, and when I finally had the opportunity to visit Hill Top with my mother and daughter 10 or so years ago, I wanted to move in. The cosy (yes, that’s the British spelling) atmosphere was utterly compelling, completely comfortable and absolutely charming: I felt at home.

Our new property is indeed located at the top of a hill, about 1,000 feet above the nearest valley floor and, like much of the English countryside, it is studded with oaks — why not call it Hilltop? Put simply, the notion just didn’t feel right. Much as I love Potter’s Hill Top and despite the fact that our new home will be, as Potter’s was, Arts & Crafts-inspired, the landscape conspired to suggest something else. Sonoma County (California) receives no summer rainfall, and so the hills are golden under the green oaks from May until November, when rainfall begins again and the grasses spring up anew. The oaks are the prominent features of the land, fully alive even in summer’s drought, and majestically sculptural in winter’s bare-limbed form. And so, we’ll call the house Acorn Lodge: it’s to be our little brown nut sitting prettily among the oaks.

We’ll still be ‘home at hilltop’ in both the most literal sense and also metaphorically: I aspire to create an atmosphere that is as compelling, as comfortable and as charming, as that which I felt at Hill Top. Potter’s aesthetic continues to inspire me, even in ways I am just beginning to discover and appreciate as I dream and plan, poring over the possibilities and trying to feel that sense of ‘just right’ in my decisions. Acorn Lodge will be our hilltop home, if not our Hill Top, but in the end we hope it will stand true that, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

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