18 July, 2012

On the Island

dee~ July 2012
On the Island
On the Island,
Water holds history
haunting lore of pasts
hopeful tales of tomorrows,
--Please, excuse me, make way,
c o m i n g  t h r o u g h
with urgent scents, sounds and sights of 
Soak in the sun, drink in the rain, breathe in the beauty.
The Island is for all of us,
is all for us.

12 July, 2012

Chestnut Mountain Viewed

written 10/2010
Years ago, the cover of a newsstand magazine caught my attention.  Headlined in the August edition was the 1996 Better Homes and Gardens Home of the Year.  Ever since then, I have kept that magazine preserved in a manila envelope covered with large bold words in red ink; SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  The plans in that magazine changed my life.
Back in August, 1996, my husband, three children, two cats and one bird were pushing out the boundaries of our 2200sq. foot restored farmhouse.  We were at a cross-road; we needed to expand our living quarters, build or purchase a new home.  The plans in Better Homes and Gardens captivated our attention and claimed out hearts.  I mailed a check for the architectural plans and we allowed our dreams to blossom.  We searched six months for an appropriate lot that would meet our budget and construction requirements.  Our efforts were not fruitful.  Reluctantly, we shelved our desire to build the 1996 Better Homes and Gardens Home of the Year.  We put our one hundred year old home on stilts, dug a full basement, constructed a solid foundation and added a family room and a library.  We loved the property we rebuilt.  We had a comfortable home, an in-ground pool and over an acre of land for privacy. And yet…
From a box, under our bed, in an envelope labeled SAVE, SAVE, SAVE, our future whispered to us.  By tacit, unspoken agreement, we kept a six-year vigil for the hillside property that might accommodate our house.  My husband stumbled upon it in a casual conversation with an insurance client.  The property on Chestnut Mountain had proven difficult to develop and the client wanted to sell it.  
Together, my husband and I hiked up the remnants of a logging road that disappeared into an overgrown tangle of thicket.  After climbing 400 feet up Chestnut Mountain, we took to trails left by deer and other fauna of western Massachusetts.  My husband gained purchase of the view by shimmying up a tree.  I climbed on until I reached a rock-roped ridge with a stream of water trickling down it.  My heart beat loud and fast, whether from exhilaration or exertion, I was not concerned.  I had a strong, sure sense of coming home.  Unfolding below us was the wide, expansive vista of the rolling hills and mountains that lend the geographic identity to this region.  The Connecticut River Valley coursed through it, threading its way south toward Springfield, toward the sea.  
The land transaction was readily accomplished.  What followed was anything but easy.  We endured a two-year legal wrangle with the local Zoning Board who were invested in flexing their muscles on our project.  Less committed dreamers may have abandoned their dreams, but we had a secret inspiration.  We had a magazine with a full photo-shoot of our dream house as it would rise from the end of a 1200 -foot long mountainous driveway.   
We moved into Chestnut Mountain View in December, 2005.  Today, numerous projects are still underway, including:  landscaping, constructing the wrap-around deck, finishing the first floor space.  Time, energy and resources have been at a premium.  These factors in no way diminish our deep sense of gratitude that we live on ten acres in a home that can only be described as a hallowed place: we live perched between earth and sky in a spacious and light-filled home once featured in Better Homes and Gardens.

Letting Go

from October, 2011
I stood in a ten by eleven foot room this afternoon wailing.  I hadn’t seen it coming.  These sobs from deep in my belly rolled up and out.  My nose ran and my eyes rained tears.  Loss seemed to have multiplied in black body bags.  I was surrounded by five contractor size garbage bags of my father’s life.  For three hours, I pulled items from his closet, from his desk from one of his four brief cases, from his bookcase, from his stereo cabinet and from boxes stored under his desk.  I salvaged more than I intended.  Four boxes of records dating back to the late 1800’s.  A suit, a shirt, two ties, for the day he might require them.  A collection of tape recordings made over the past 25 years.  Several touching notes and letters written to my sister and me for such day that I was doing such a heart-breaking task.  My father’s relocation to the Holyoke Soldier’s Home will provide him a new start on life.  He left behind the detritus for my sister and I to sort out.  The visceral pain of touching the pieces of his life that he treasured most were what was most difficult.  My great-grandmother’s sepia photograph wrapped in a velvet sack laid alongside money from the mid to late 1800’s. It was hard to ponder what brought these items together.  The batteries and pens and stationery and the stamps on letters never mailed were inventoried and sorted.  
My brother-in-law and I had spent hours and hours over the weekend right here in the exact same spot.  We had removed close to a ton of clutter and cast aways from the house already.  I tried to steel l myself to it.  I tried to apply my very exceptional skill to sort and organize like and unlike items (learned from playing hundreds of games of solitude, I am convinced) without the emotional burden of being present  - while I toss an entire refrigerator filled with half-eaten food.  It is not easy.  Loss always seems to declare itself as I finger a book, turn over a photograph, gather up items for the Thrift Shop.  Letting go, no matter who, no matter how, no matter when, is simply never easy.