“Real poetry,” said the Haiku poet Basho, “is to lead a beautiful life. To live poetry is better than to write it.”
The months of April, May and June have already passed and — writing now from the red-rock deserts of Utah — the lush green world of our life in the Connecticut woods has begun to fade from recent memory. Even our spring road trip down through Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico and on up to Utah has become a blur which only comes back into focus after looking through our photo archives and journals.
I had so much I wanted to write about over those last few months, but life events and packing and the economy and all that seemed to steal away the moments in the morning when I would be able to just to sit down gather my thoughts and photo albums and make sense of the things, in a form fit for public consumption.
There was the trip to Washington DC, where Gigi finally got to overdose on history and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The day trip out to West Cornwall in search of the old Colonial house that the humorist James Thurber lived in during his later years. The weekend in Greenwich Village, attending a three-day “cheese bootcamp” at Murray’s Cheese Shop. The final melting of snow, the explosion of flowers everywhere, the return of the rabbits and chipmunks, the journey up through New Hampshire to the land of “Foxbridge” where my novel takes place. and so much more.
When we first arrived in South Glastonbury, Connecticut I started a journal and over the next ten months, no matter what else was going on, I almost always took the time to put in an entry, however long or short, recording the date, the temperature, expected weather, and whatever events I cared to note from the preceding day. In lieu of any other tributes, here are the entries from the last week of that journal:
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Sunny, Cold 38 degrees. Sun expected all Day.
Last minute things to do. Going to the Peabody Museum one last time so Gigi can look at the exhibit of “sacred stones” used in ancient Judaic traditions. One last pizza night, fill up the bird feeder on last time, visit with our friends Rich and Amy. Replace a few things we have broken.
Have I learned anything while I was here? We shall see. My eyes and ears were open, perhaps more often than in my California days, when the main goal was to shut things out with sunglasses and headphones.
The seasons have their own character, at times subtle in their changes, while at other times abrupt, with morning Summertime sun followed with an afternoon blizzard, and a Ginkgo tree that dropped its leaves in an hour-long shower. We arrived here in the deep green of summer, and now leave in the prima vera of Spring. Everything is a circle.
The old Mr. Rose, who owned the berry farm, died while we were here, and his son is running the place for now. The farmer died, but the farm continues. A mouse died on my watch, but the rivers still flow by the cove where he now rests.
This year has been variations on a theme of Solitude, punctuated by occasional ventures into the town-village, or the visits by out-of-towners, or invasions by flocks of wild turkeys.
I’ve learned that I could live like this, and that we have enough within ourselves to keep amused and busy. And so we shall, somewhere.
It has been a magic year. The world is filled with wonders.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Cloudy, Cool 55 degrees. Thunderstorms later.
The farming machinery was running late yesterday. To be a farmer, it seems it has to be your life. There is no such thing as “after work,” or extra-curricular activity.
Long list of things to do before we go. Must keep my promise to donate to the Mark Twain House. I would like to think that upon my departure, Connecticut was left in slightly better shape than it was on my arrival.
I for one am certainly better off for the stay.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Cloudy, cool 61 degrees. More clouds later
This journal, like our stay here in Connecticut, is drawing to a close. Feeling a sense of regret, of things left undone, as at the end of one’s life when there is still so much left to do. A life well-lived, it seems, always ends in mid-sentence.
The seasons teach us that everything in life is a circle, and that every end a beginning, every death an illusion, if you do not also see the life that follows, as Winter never fails to turn into Spring.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Cloudy, cool 55 degrees.
The chipmunks are back. Good to see them running about before we go.
Went down to the Peabody Museum yesterday and while down there realized that we had not yet made it over to the Gillette Castle, formerly owned by a stage actor famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and who first used the line “Elementary, my dear fellow”.
We went through the woods to get there, stopping at the town of Chester and taking a ferry boat ride across the Connecticut river. Worth the trip.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Sunny, Cold 34 degrees. Warmer later
Almost finished packing. Once again we are living out of suitcases. Once again a long road is our future, our next home beyond the horizon, and across the Great Divide. Oblivious to all of this metaphor, the two squirrels chase each other around and around the base of the Ginkgo tree outside, the ten o’clock rabbit prepares for his morning shift, and now there is a new bird in the trees — could it be a hatchling? — with a curious dolphin-like squeal.
The last frost of winter takes a nip at our heels this morning, perhaps to send us on our way. Or, perhaps, a gentle reminder from winter that the world-in-time is a circle, and that someday soon, it will be back.
Thursday, May 21 2009
Sunny, Warm 68 degrees. Hot later
The movers have come and gone and our car is packed. Within the hour we too will be gone.
Farewell, Blueberry Lane. Farewell, Connecticut. You were not always kind to us, perhaps, but you and your birds and your seasons and your people were cut from whole cloth of an honest weave seldom now seen, an experience worthwhile and not soon forgotten.
And for all of that, I thank you.
The Springdale Planning Council gave their approval for the
building of our house on Anasazi Plateau !
Ray Gardner gave a presentation on Feb 15 that addressed some
of their concerns about the large windows, and the nighttime light
pollution. Here’s a sampling of the presentation:
Here are the plans that we will be presenting to the Springdale Town Planning Commission
on February 15, 2005. Both Ray Gardner and our builder Jason Campbell will be
attending. We also plan on meeting with the developer, Milo McCowan, prior to the
Here is a PDF version of the latestHouse Plans from Ray. In this version, the cooktop (which is now a six-unit Jenn-Air downdraft model) has been moved back off the island and back to the counter, the oven centered in the island, the sink moved over to the western side of the counter, and the bar section shrunk down a bit.
I think we’re mostly done with the plan-level stuff. Time to work on choices of stone and colors…
Our architect Ray has put together a virtual-reality representation of the Interior View of our house, using QuickTime VR. The file is about 2 megabytes, so you may want to download it first and then look at it. Here is a snapshot of the view from one vantage point:
After our Thanksgiving dinner, we re-thunk our plans and realized we like the earlier
plans a lot more. So we spent some time working out what we liked about the later plans
and tried to integrate them into the earlier (2.0) plan. Here is what we came up with:
NB: If you notice some things changed from the last time you looked, its because I upgraded
my home system from linux Fedora Core 2 to Core 3 this weekend (12/4/04), and in the process
blew away some data files. It happens. This is from a backup from a few days ago.
We’ve put together a gallery of arts and crafts cabin interiors that we like.
Here’s an example of one of them:
The word going around is, my Dad’s Aunt Eunice has finally found some
prime samples of “Ritter Block”, which is a sort of concrete block that was
invented by my great-grandfather, George Ritter. George was in the concrete
and marble/tile business in Pinckneyville, Illinois, and his “Ritter Block” was
used in many buildings throughout that part of Illinois.
The plot had been hatched in my mind some time ago that a novel tribute to
my inventive ancestor would be to obtain one of his blocks and use it as a
cornerstone for the house we are building.
Here is an old picture of George Ritter with one of his other inventions, a
new jack for automobiles:
Ray Gardner just sent us some screenshots of a 3D CAD model
of the current (version 1.0) floorplan
(click to enlarge):
He also sent us the actual SKP format cad file that you can look at, walk-through etc
using a free Viewer. You can either download it directly from Sketchup.com
(they want your email address and blood type etc), or else here are the free viewer
installers I already downloaded for Windows and Mac OS X (Classic macs and linux systems are out of luck).
Looking at the 3D cad model and spinning it around has already helped us figure out some
of the things we need to change. By the way, don’t take the size of the people in the
model too seriously for a sense of vertical scale: we’ve figured out that at this scale those people are almost 7 feet tall !
Here is a mosaic of a set of shots at the center of our property,
done by our architect:
(click to enlarge)
Gigi is looking due south, at Eagle Crags, while to the far right is Mount Kinesawa,
part of Zion National Park.
Some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work emphasizes the idea of a building
growing out of its local environment. His Taliesin West house is a good
example of the kind of natural, rustic beauty that we are looking for in
our own house (click to enlarge):
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
— “Little Boxes” Words and music by Malvina Reynolds.
I had just gotten back from a business trip when Gigi announced that
she had “made a decision”, as she is known to do. She had decided that
we should look into taking a trip out to Utah to see about buying or building
a get-away home.
It made perfect sense to me. We had been spending the last two years exploring the
borderline psychotic world that the inhabitants call “Southern California Real Estate”,
with its $700,000.00 closets and garish MacMansions. We have often wondered just
what the hell all the people that can afford these things actually do.
The simple fact is that we can’t afford to buy our first home here, so following simple
Alice-in-Wonderland logic, we might as well start out by buying our second home first,
and then working our way up to a first home.