As we hurtle toward completion of the icehouse rehab, I catch myself in barn reflection. Again. Yes, I consider the icehouse a barn. And, yes, migrating my books and artifacts and works in progress from a bedroom-turned-office (aka study/studio) in our home into the almost renovated icehouse is enthusing me beyond reason. It’s also catalyzing reverie and rumination into my farm backstory. Let’s dig a little deeper?
The painting above, made by my godmother, Louise Coldwell, has hung above my study/studio fireplace for the last 15 or so years. In this façade of the first home I remember, the two small windows at the top, right were my bedroom. Below my bedroom, the dining room. To the left of the entrance doorway, the living room. My parents bedroom was above the living room. I say, “the first time I remember”, but there were others. An apartment in Manhattan and another in Bronxville. Also, overlapping, a house in Glens Falls and another in Lake Placid. Itinerant years when my parents were still primarily living and working in New York City and then orchestrating a shift upstate. I’ll sit down with them to try and map out these years and lodgings. I muddle these memories in part to offset the fact that The Farm stands out for me. I’m not 100% certain why, but it is the first home the main impression on me, a home that still conjures poignant flashbacks.
Recently I’ve been sifting through memories and mementos of those few-but-formative years, and I’m coming to suspect that my association between barns — especially old, weathered, rural farm barns — and “home” (as well as “homing” and basically all matters related to “homeness”) is intrinsically rooted in my early childhood adventures at The Farm.
Note the painting, partially cropped, in the photograph above. For a decade and a half this is what I saw when sitting at my desk, if I turned away from Lake Champlain to look at the fireplace. And if you allow your eyes to drift down to the cluttered mantle above the fireplace, you’ll see a black-and-white photograph.
That’s me as a shaggy, bowl-cut youngster, with OMC, a family friend and neighbor when we were at The Farm. He was also my godfather and, in many respects, a surrogate grandfather. The initials stand for Old Man Coldwell, a nickname he used to sign the pottery he made (including the enormous bowl featured in this post: “Generosity of Friends: Lemons from Afar”).
Memories of The Farm and OMC overlap for me. Not always, but often. His presence and guidance, his physicality — apparent in this photograph — and his wonder-welling words. Our time together was guided by adventure. Riding an old tractor through a field to round up a cow that had gotten out. Riding an old tractor through a field to round up a cow that had gotten out. Walking to a distant meadow where he kept a rowboat and fishing rod ready on a pond bank. Squatting among strawberry bushes hunting for the largest, ripest fruit. Harvesting honey from a hive and eating it, thick and warm from a spoon. Massaging clay and squishing it through my fingers when he and my mother were potting…
My parents’ friendship (and eventual falling out) with OMC remain intertwined with their memories of The Farm as well. I’ll inquire what if any memories they might share. Until then, I’ll loop back to the property itself.
My parents, living and working in New York City, had purchased an 1840s farmhouse on 85 acres in Greenwich, New York five months after getting married. I was born less than two years later. Although The Farm served primarily as a weekend getaway for the next five years, it dominates the geography of my earliest childhood. A stream of nostalgia gilded memories flow from this pastoral source: exploring the time-worn barns, absent livestock except for those conjured up by my energetic imagination and the swallows which darted in and out, building nests in the rafters, gliding like darts through dusty sunbeams; vegetable gardening with my mother; tending apple, pear and quince trees with my father; eating fresh rhubarb, strawberries and blackberries; discovering deer and raccoons and snakes and even a snapping turtle. (Source: The Farm)
Bucolic. Burnished, no doubt, by time’s spirited sentimentality.
I weave The Farm in Cossayuna (aka “The Farm“) into a conversation, a blog post, a social media update. Why? Not sure. Maybe the omnipresence of The Farm as a defining point of reference in my own life? (Source: Preservation by Neglect: The Farm in Cossayuna)
I’ve explored elsewhere the overlap between my lifelong fascination with barns (and barn vernacular) and my early memories at The Farm. The chicken or the egg? Which came first?
Woven into the earliest tapestries of my childhood are fond associations with barns. (Source: A Barnophile of Bygone Barns)
I wander my patchwork memory map and wonder, wandering, wondering, where is the margin mocked by tides and waves, the littoral boundary of fact and fiction, fluctuating with wind and moon? What was The Farm? And what have I imagined into it?
I inevitably distort history, omitting and abbreviating and emphasizing, distilling the vast landscape of data into vignettes. These accrete gradually, revealing the narrative design of my story. (Source: Remembering and Recounting)
Are these memories of The Farm in Cossayuna accurate? Reliable? Are they actually defining details in my life, reliable anchors tethering my current contemplation of homeness?
“Life is not what one lives, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale (Source: Remembering and Recounting)
This rings true to me. We are our story. Our stories. And The Farm, embedded inextricably into my attraction to Rosslyn, has provided a sort of scaffolding for many of my homing initiatives since about 2005.
As I bring this meandering meditation to a close, it’s worth noting that I’ve shared images of The Farm over the years. Always the farmhouse, never the barns. Peculiar that I don’t have any images of the barns. I’m almost certain that I took a few photographs when I visited within the last decade, but I haven’t managed to put my fingers on them. I will keep looking, but in the meantime, I’ll ask my parents if they might have an old photograph or some other representation of the outbuildings at The Farm.