Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Our Crew...

Today, we visited the building site and found our crew beavering away in drizzle and cold. What a fantastic team.... thank you.
Our base-footings are almost complete. Monday, the walls of the basement will be poured.

Step by step, we make our way.

With the temperatures dropping to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a near-constant drizzle after 2pm, we assumed that little would be done on our wrong we were.

Our designer/builder emailed to say the crew was on site, pouring the last footers and creating the framework for what would eventually be the walls of our basement...

We got out of our car, walked to the edge of the excavation and the foreman looked up with a grin and said, "Well...your house survived Sandy." And, it has.

He went on to say that they would be pouring cement on Monday, when the forecast is for sunshine and mid-50's weather. In fact, that is forecast for a few days next week. If that happens, they will begin framing and this hoe in the ground will resemble a home before Thanksgiving.

Although this may not look like a thing a beauty at this does to Nicholas and me. This is a dream that began nearly 5 1/2 years ago...a dream that now begins to be manifest.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Day After

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been harmed by Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of people without power, homes destroyed, dreams crushed...
Today our birds seemed hungrier than ever and I spotted a cautious newcomer amongst the windblown wisteria and our winter lights: a red bellied woodpecker.

Our house footings are more secure today after the crew had worked hard in inclement weather. New beginnings.... 

The storm brought 50 mile and hour winds, rain and days of worry as the east coast of America tried to prepare for the unknown. 

Now, Sandy has made landfall, the devastation is immense, the loss unfathomable. 

We continue to build, recognizing the immense privilege and profound gift of shelter, of community, of home...

Here is the gift of the men creating the foundations upon which our house will stand...they worked as the winds increased speed, as the temperatures dropped...
We are grateful...


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Progress... and an imminent storm!

Hurricane Sandy is barreling down towards the New Jersey Shore and we are advised to expect uproaring winds, power outages and flooding.
Thank goodness the footings are in and the concrete will have set.
The crew yesterday were magnificent and managed to get all the necessary steps in place by the end of the day.
We have spare water, an electric battery light and food for the unexpected.


And so as our 2nd day of housebuilding unfolded...amazing things happened very very quickly.

This was the scene just before lunch...
And here was the scene when we returned four hours later...
The footprint of our foundation, footers poured, an incredible job, done by a wonderful crew of six guys, working to get us in a good position before the crazy weather potential of "Frankenstorm"...

We were not the only ones observing, our soon-to-be neighbours have been wonderfully supportive and excited, the developers (who have become great friends), people driving by are slowing down, the village is noticing...but my favourite spectator has to be....

Dustin....who liked the cement just a little too much...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The smell of earth...

Our house began officially today when the digging crew arrived with a giant machine. Several hours later they have created a deep hole in the earth marked out by spraypaint and posts. Its hard to imagine that the house will exist atop all this... a sort of miracle.

But the earth smelled clean and fresh, the stuff of new beginnings!

Nicholas has last...

We first saw this earth, this land in April of 2011, came back to visit it in October of 2011, put a deposit on it later that month and then began working on a plan with a wonderfully creative builder/designer for the past 18 months.

And now, it begins to take shape, off the paper, into form.

Dreams look like this, all twist and turns, momentary setbacks and delays...and then, they finally come into form...if we remember to stay constant, to stay vigilant.

We closed on our mortgage yesterday, we broke ground in sunshine and 70 degree, late October, weather today, the footings will be poured tomorrow and, hopefully the framing will begin next week. 

It depends on the weather...and Hurricane Sandy may be heading our way..
It depends on things we have no control over...
Funny that.

I am reminded in all of this, and in this season, that I only control my response to things...not the things themselves.

What a beautiful sight, this shifting of the actual earth to make room for us to build a place of beauty and grace, a place where healing and creativity will be extended to all we are blessed to welcome.

I guess it wasn't just earth that I was aware of being on the move today...
I think I knew, without a doubt, that actually...Heaven and Earth brought us to this moment in our lives.

Gratitude is my constant companion this night.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Restored connections!

We've been out of internet contact for 5 days due to a satellite problem... but now we're back on line. 
Yesterday evening a glorious swathe of golden light peaked out from behind a dark cloud at about 6pm, casting a Midas touch upon the trees about our pond.

It has been amazing, seeing the march of autumn over the last few weeks. Now, most of the golds and oranges have gone and there are few reds left. But the skeletal bones of winter will be fascinating to observe.
We break ground in two days time!

Autumn is here, the rosy golden cast of early morning and late afternoon sunshine creates a dazzling panorama or russets and bronzes, yellows and ochres. 

And threaded through the landscape, as if by chance, are the now empty branches and trunks of those trees that released their foliage to the wind and rain earlier in the season.

Same process....different moments....


We are all somewhere on the Sacred Circle...


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A triumph of yellows...

The last blast of fall color before the colder air comes in.
This afternoon, after a morning filled with grey, the sunlight flooded in from the West.
It was a glorious afternoon, replete with a cool crisp wind.
This morning, we met with a garden designer to discuss possible plans for our future garden at Mapleridge.
We are hoping for a garden filled with elements: earth, air, fire and water.
So much to look forward too!


This morning we met with another landscape architect/designer in preparation for the work we hope to do on the land next spring, when the house is done.

It was raining when he arrived, the clouds were beautiful, as though the sun might possibly break through at any moment. And did...

This is the distant view from the back of our garden. I am amazed at the glory of the orange hues, flanked by yellows, with the promise of much yet-to-come in the greens still peppering the hillside.

Each time we visit our land we have a sense of deep peace, knowing that it will be a place of healing and creativity. It is difficult to fully express the joy we both have in knowing that this beauty, this magnificence, will greet us each morning, each season, each year...

We are grateful for all that is about to unfold.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Last of the colours...

I had a lovely walk in the woods behind the cottage the other day and found myself lost quite soon. With 62 acres as part of this property the woods go on and on for what seems like miles.
After a while I found myself on a rough track which led me up to a plantation center run by the Plantsmen nursery. Fortunately I was able to find my way back after being guided by one of the workmen there.
The trees were showing signs of advanced color change...

We heard today that our mortgage is ready to close! Great news... and the foundation work is to begin very soon.

Hanging in there....

That is what is required at this time...

It is not required so much of us, at least not in this instance, but a number of really amazing friends are doing this in this moment of their lives.

And they are doing so with grace, gentleness of spirit, and extraordinary compassion.

This little guy reminds me that life isn't always easy, it requires exquisite flexibility and inordinate levels of creative ingenuity at times...

And sometimes, just sometimes..when all of those things are utilised, a feast is available...


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Autumn migrations

Every day for the last week or so we have seen huge flocks of geese flying south and east. They are a delightful sight as they honk and sqawk their way through the skies. 
This morning Judy and I visited our plot of land once more to more closely define where our house is to  sit, and, looking out towards Hammond Hill we could see the patchwork of autumnal colours. A huge flock of geese was progressing slowly off into the distance.

Only a few more steps now before we break ground; a final bank inspection of the land, and then the closing on our mortgage. And then, of course, we have to see if the foundation crew are free, there may be one job in front of us, but we have our building permit and the other job doesn't.

This seems an apt image for today, this day when we are the closest we have ever been to our dreams becoming manifest with the beginning of the build.

These incredible homing pigeons live just next door to our cottage, they gather daily to have a little coo before taking to the sky in their winged dance. To see them is a delight. And then, after a while, they come back, to their comfy, safe home...what a joy to behold.

I think it is easy to forget the beauty of creation in the busy-ness of life, it is easy to think "if you have seen one pigeon, you have seen them all" and in this photo, I see anew the brilliant sheen of the feathers of each, the brightness of their eyes, the individual focus and quiet nature of each. 

Again, as so often in this season, I am reminded to take a closer look.

Before our builder arrived this morning, Nicholas and I took time to bless the land and give thanks for the elements and the four directions surrounding it. I am so grateful for all the blessings, so overwhelmed by the synchronicity of this season, so comforted that symbol and metaphor meet me anew each morning.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Autumn Mosaic

The wind is up today after a night of heavy rain and the temperature has fallen at least fifteen degrees. Autumnal color patchworks are everywhere becoming smaller, almost as I write.

The symphony of changing colors is quite glorious to behold, a reminder of beauty and of time and of necessity.

This is Dryden Lake a few weeks ago.

This is where I hope I will come to kayak. Kayaking is new to me as a concept, but I keep coming back to it as the place I want to explore within myself, for the physical exercise on one level, for the spiritual aspect on another.

There was something about putting a kayak onto Long Lake this summer, about the silence of the movement, about the quiet, about the reflective nature of gliding next to a loon, next to the shoreline, next to my interior thoughts....

I revisit those moments from this summer with our friends at Mange Takk quite involuntarily, and that confirms what a profound imprint that first experience was for me. It spoke to something, inspired something, began something.

As we begin to build our new home, I am profoundly grateful that this little lake, just down the road, holds the seed of another of my dreams.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Glorious Sumac

The sumac trees are at their height right now... glorious deep reds and structural shapes abound in the landscape about these hills.
We are fortunate to experience these glorious colors.

Soon the branches will be bare and will be a stark reminder of all that is left, after a year has passed.

We were told by our architect that we now have an actual address, which means that the town of Dryden has signed off on our house, and that signals the beginning of the build.

This fills me with great joy and excitement, but I am also, as I have said, aware that in this moment I am saying to this beautiful land, in a very real way, that we own you...we will shape you...

The reality that we are saying it is our "right" to gouge the landscape and create a home for ourselves in the beauty that exists there, is something we do not take lightly.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of some primitive art on the walls of a structure in Grand Canyon National Park...

In this work the reverence of the earth, the sky, the centre and the four directions are depicted and I remember being deeply aware that this was something too often ignored in contemporary culture, too often overlooked.

As I have grown older, I have become more convinced of the power of rituals to mark moments of import, and this is one of those moments for us.

So, NIcholas and I have agreed that we want to have a little ceremony on the land we are humbled to be caretakers of. We will stand together and give thanks for its beauty, we will honour it, the sky, the centre, and the depths of love that have guided us thus far. We will give thanks for the blessings of the North, the South, the East and the West, and vow to be good stewards of that which has been so generously entrusted to us.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

30% color change

We're about 30% of fall color here in Ithaca and the pond is covered with blown leaves. At times the water is clear enough though to see the fish lurking about underneath. Judy tells me there might even be snapping turtles around, but I've yet to see one.
Three years ago we visited the Redwood Forests of Northern California: the sense of privilege in that landscape was immense and I will never forget the quiet and stillness underneath the giant trees. 
Driving south towards Trinidad Bay I spotted a dusty old truck parked outside a deli... a quintessential image that I have converted into black and white. It was as if we had gone back in time.


So, as we prepare to meet our architect/builder to site the house (for real!), as we wait for the engineer's stamp on our designs and the town of Dryden to give us the go ahead...we are both in need of well-chosen distractions...

This was part of yesterday's...

Ithaca's Mate Bar and Cafe...from its inverted basket lamps to the hand-hewn wood benches and tables, the spelt waffles with NY State maple syrup, fabulous coffee and...of course...mate, it is absolutely a slice of life here in this wonderful university town. I should probably also mention that I have NEVER seen so many men with beards....I think beards for men and clogs for women are somehow the unspoken Ithacan dress codes.

We got a few iced papaya mates before we headed to the local arthouse, Cinemapolis, to see a film, yesterday it was Arbitrage with Richard Gere, tomorrow we are going to The Master. Closer to our cottage is a more mainstream cinema, so that is a nice option as well. Films are a great option for high-end distraction. What a great part of the world we have chosen to settle in!


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

New visitors and strange little faces...

We were visited by a new creature yesterday morning. Looking like a cross between a squirrel and a chipmunk, we think it might be a young red squirrel.

But, for now, we can enjoy its presence without really knowing.
Soon after the chipmunks came back, and one of them stood on the railing, poised for several minutes, looking towards our living room. Cheeks full of nuts... cheeky and absolutely nuts.

"Well, you put them all out here and I just had to load up, winter's coming..."

What a cute little chipmunk.

Oh, such privilege to truly pause and see the incredible creations in our world, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the bees, the animals...and, of course, human beings. How glorious it is to truly see one another and to truly be seen as well, how I wish we would all take more time to do that, to see anew. Funny...think about the word see again...that just about says it all.

There is bountiful and reason in each moment to celebrate.

Thank you beautiful little creature, for the smiles your little spirit brought us this day, for reminding me that, on so many levels, it is all about respect.


Monday, 1 October 2012


I took this photograph at the Phoenician hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, in the early spring of 2008. Depicting a Native American with her child it is a haunting sculpture...
I remember being struck by the spirit of place in those vast desert lands that the Hopi and Navajo made their own. 
My journeys in the West and South West have resonated on so many levels... so I am looking forward to producing a book of black and white photographs that attempt to capture some of those mysteries.

Here is one of my favourite images from our trips to the western United States.

Throughout Sedona were mini altars like these, cairns...and this one, on the weathered stone, with a dried branch alongside, became an exquisite altar, a reminder to stop, to give thanks, to reflect.

Our home in England was filled with stones and shells and sticks we have gathered on our journeys. In creating our new home here in America, I feel the need to create more opportunities for this type of reflection and devotion, prompted by elements from the natural world, like this one, elegant and simple, yet filled with metaphor and beauty.

My whole spirit feels renewed and and peace when I see this...and that is a big motivator for me.