In the spring and summer of 2006, when Susan and I took a leap of faith and made the decision to pursue Rosslyn as our future home, it was apparent to both of us that we were biting off considerably more than we could chew.￼
Dream big. Dream a little bigger. And then leap!￼
From leaping capriciously, optimistically, idealistically, and oh-so romantically into this Rosslyn adventure 16 years ago to an eventual and inevitable untethering at some point in the future, Susan and I have courted an unconventional but rewarding existence. In a sense we’ve never stopped leaping.
Now with 20/20 hindsight￼ (and a decade and a half of years of lessons learned and humility earned)￼ I’m comfortable admitting that we got in over our heads.￼ Waaayyy over our heads. Our skillset￼ and our checkbook were too lean￼; our romantic outlook and our self confidence were too stout. Needless to say, that’s a fraught combination. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. Well, maybe a few things…
I envisioned Rosslyn’s rehabilitation as an adventure, a risky adventure, but an adventure well worth the risk (and the 100% investment it would take, not the least of which was our undivided time and energy.) Rosslyn would become our love affair, our work and play, our vocation and avocation, and — despite a resolute decision early in our relationship to embrace unclehood and aunthood while remaining childfree — Rosslyn would become our surrogate child.
In due course, heck, practically from day one, Rosslyn would eclipse literally everything else in our lives. That’s truly not an exaggeration. And, in all candor, it wasn’t particularly wise on our part. If we could do it again, we would try harder to define and observe boundaries. We would create actual limits. We would take breaks. Or at least, we tell each other that that’s what we would do differently. We would try to create boundaries. We would try to take breaks.
But you can’t un-live life. And￼￼ regrets are uncomely.
Re-examining life, however, is not only possible￼. In this case it’s prerequisite to the task at hand. The tasks at hand…
Today Susan and I are longer-term Rosslyn residents ￼￼— by a factor of four! — than even our most unbridled expectations at the outset￼. And yet we struggle to untether ourselves from our adventure fairytale￼￼ with this home, property, and community. In the months ahead I’ll explore this curious connection with place, with an old house that became our home, with a community that beguiled us from the outset and wove us into its enchanting tapestry, and also with the fact that we originally envisioned this chapter of our lives as a temporary transition, a wholesome regrouping, and how challenging it has been to separate ourselves from Rosslyn, and from this community. The complex liminal space we envisioned Rosslyn becoming way back in 2006 was not ready to graduate us after three of four years as we’d originally anticipated. And today Rosslyn’s remarkable liminality is once again catalyzing profound and important growth for us. Transformation is omnipresent, not only at Rosslyn, but everywhere. We’re living through many levels of concurrent transition. And Rosslyn, as she has since 2006, is guiding us, nurturing us, and preparing us for what awaits us down the road.
Today’s post, though rambling and unwieldy, comes at a time when we are brainstorming and daydreaming and contemplating what it would look like to untether and disembark on a new adventure. The vision is still forming, the seed still germinating. But you’re invited to join us as we contemplate and eventually cast off.
Bur first, before introducing the wonders we’re currently navigating, let’s hopscotch through a few earlier posts that refresh our memory about how this marvelous tale began.
Rooted in a personal shift from wanderlust to houselust, I spent 2003 through 2005 recognizing that I was thinking differently about home and community.
I’d made it into my early thirties without owning a home due to my intentionally peripatetic lifestyle, and despite an aesthete’s appetite for buildings and furnishing and gardens, I hadn’t the least interest in settling down. No biological clock ticking. No nesting instinct. No yen for taxes and maintenance and burst pipes and snow shoveling. No desire whatsoever for the trappings of a settled, domestic life. I understood why it appealed to others, but for me the commitments and encumbrances far outweighed the pride and financial wisdom of home ownership.
Something had changed, and I couldn’t quite figure out how or why. (Source: Paris Renovation Bug)
Perhaps for nostalgic reasons I began looking at forgotten farms, bygone barns, meandering stone walls hemming in overgrown fields…
The perfect place, I explained to Bruce, the friend and realtor who shuttled me from property to property, would be a small, simple farmhouse in the middle of fields with a sturdy barn and some acreage, maybe a stream or a pond or access to a river. Barns, in particular, pulled me. Secluded places with good light and views, forgotten places with stories still vaguely audible if you slowed down long enough to hear the voices. No loud traffic. An old overgrown orchard, perhaps. Asparagus and rhubarb gone feral near the barn. Stone walls, lots of stone walls and maybe an old stone foundation from a building long ago abandoned, the cellar hole full to bursting with day lilies. A couple of old chimneys in the farmhouse with fireplaces. A simple but spacious kitchen. A bedroom with plenty of windows. A room to read and write and collage the walls with notes, lists, photos, drawings and scraps. Someplace I could tinker at myself, gradually restoring the walls and plaster and roof. Timeworn wide plank floorboards of varying widths that I would sand by hand to avoid erasing the footpaths and dings and cupping from a burst pipe years before. (Source: Serene, Patinaed Fantasy)
As Susan became more and more interested in my North Country real estate search, we both began to imagine what it would look like to spend more time in a place that pulled us like poetry, viscerally if sometimes inexplicably.
“I’d be living a green lifestyle in the Adirondacks too. I love it here. I’d be thrilled to live here for a few years.” Peripatetic by nature, I enjoyed relocating every three to four years. Having grown up in the Adirondacks, mostly in the Champlain Valley, I had long yearned to reconnect, not just for vacation or a weekend. (Source: Postprandial Soak)
Projecting our lifestyle fantasies onto the tapestry of the Adirondacks’ Champlain Valley became a constant pastime.
We could waterski and windsurf for half the year instead of just two or three months, starting in May with drysuits and finishing in the end of October. We could sail the Hobie Cat more instead of letting it collect spider webs on the Rock Harbor beach. I could fly fish the Boquet and Ausable Rivers in the afternoon while Tasha snoozed on the bank. We could join Essex Farm, the local CSA, supporting a local startup while eating healthy, locally grown and raised food. I could grow a vegetable garden, an herb garden, an orchard. Susan could work for an architecture firm in Burlington and volunteer at the animal shelter. We could buy season passes to Whiteface and downhill ski several days a week. We could cross country ski and snowshoe and bike and rollerblade and kayak and canoe and hike, and maybe I would start rock climbing again… [With] our collective brainstorm leap frogging forward, it all started to make a strange sort of sense, to seem almost logical. (Source: Almost Logical)
Susan and I loved to tell stories, and increasingly we were beginning to insert ourselves into the intoxicating plot of a co-authored fairytale nestled into the Adirondack foothills, rebooting our lives and our work in a more intentional, healthier, happier way. Creating a new chapter together.
“Are you serious? Would you really want to live at Rosslyn?” Susan persisted.
I was unclear whether she was horrified or excited. I had made the suggestion spontaneously, without forethought, and now I felt embarrassed. I knew the idea was absurd. We both knew it made no sense at all. And yet we had returned to see the house again that morning. A second visit to a house we had already decided not to buy. Why? It exerted an inexplicable pull for both of us. It had awakened our imaginations, our fantasies, our hopes.
“No. And yes,” I said, hedging. “No, I’m not really serious. I just suggested it off the cuff. It’s probably the stupidest idea ever, or at least the least serious idea ever. But yes, there is a side of me that would love to live at Rosslyn. I’ve felt it each time we’ve visited the house. I’m not sure I can explain it…”
“You don’t need to,” Susan said. She was beaming. “I agree.” She rose out of the bath and wrapped a towel around her broad shoulders. “What a dream it would be, to live in that grand old home!” (Source: We could live at the Rosslyn)
Little by little we were talking ourselves, talking each other into a transformation that would encompass virtually every aspect of our lives. It didn’t happen overnight, but the possibilities we were conjuring had begun to eclipse our desire to stay in Manhattan, my desire to return to Europe, and our realistic sense that anything else in the world could possibly make as much sense as relocating to the western shores of Lake Champlain to build a home together.
What do you think?