Smoothing white paint on the uneven baseboards of the silent old house this afternoon, I crouch low to the freshly-installed floor, knees aching with this work, and I can smell the fragrance of the fresh cuts in the wood planks we've just installed. Ninety-two years this mill worker's cottage has been here, sheltering the same family generation after generation and witnessing their births, deaths, Christmases, lovemakings, sorrows, comings, goings. Now we are here, strangers to its walls. We want to be friends. This renovation is mostly preservation, a healing of some wounds, and we run our hands over all its home-made surfaces, marveling at the house's refusal to achieve a real right angle anywhere. Ancestors not mine observe me. I beg their pardon when I have to remove a handmade cupboard to get the 'fridge in, I apologize under my breath as I carefully store the pieces of it in the shed. Painted wood, sage green. There are three chimneys in the house's thousand square feet, one now entombed in the center of the house, one waiting to become part of a kitchen exhaust system, and one big old stone hearth still wondering if we are going to unstop its mouth or not. When we made space for the washer dryer in a closet, a letter and a photograph fluttered from the ceiling where they had lain quietly for sixty-two years. The walls are ready to tell story.