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.