In the forests of Lithuania—my grandfather’s formative years

April 10 | 2023

I’m delighted to announce today’s publication in Terrain magazine of my illustrated essay “Its Petrified Imprint”: <>

The essay details my efforts to glimpse my paternal grandfather, Dr. Simon Kirsch (above), by means of the Lithuanian landscapes characterizing his early childhood. As some of you will know from my memoir and family history, The Smallest Objective, Simon immigrated to Montreal at the age of six, having spent his early years in the Jewish settlement of Vilkomir, Lithuania. His profession of botany originated, perhaps, in the country of his birth—a country abounding in pristine forests and the last nation in Europe to abandon pagan rites. 

The lantern slide shown here was one that Simon used when teaching at McGill University in Montreal. It consists of a cross-section of a beech tree magnified by 25 times and would have been viewed through a magic lantern, the earliest form of a slide projector. Like Simon himself, the beech is a species to be found both in Europe and North America.