I spent a morning right before New Year's trudging around Chautauqua, the summer community where we have spent time for so many years. Trudging is the only word for it -- most of the snow had not been ploughed or salted, and the roads were alternately slushy and icy and always treacherous. I had my moments though -- a Cooper's hawk sitting high in a tree and calling back and forth to someone it eventually flew off to join (Do Cooper's hawks mate for life? I was astonished to hear what seemed like a courtship ritual in late December --) , and a pileated woodpecker. Chautauqua is one place where you are almost guaranteed a pileated.
And this house! Arising in the 1870s as first a tent community and then a village of summer cottages built on the old tent platforms, Chautauqua was a dilapidated shell of its former self a century later when the nouveau riche descendants of its early teacher and minister families rediscovered it. Victorian rehabs and new construction popped up all over the place and, sad to say, Chautauqua is no longer a place for the financially faint of heart. I expect every visit I make to be my last, as those of my generation having the wherewithal to build summer homes in the range of the high six figures have crowded out the more modestly monied population that built the Institution in the first place.
But the houses are irresistible, and thinking about this one has reminded me of the romance and whimsy and quixotic features that have all but disappeared from my life over the past few years. In my case, small children brought with them years and years of joyful explorations of the natural world, hours of reading fantastical stories, and long afternoons of creating bizarre architectural structures in the house and yard. Adolescence brought with it a period of much pain and sorrow, and drained away most of that joy.
I'm ready to grasp the pleasures of life again, and to start letting go of the things that don't work. Easier said that done -- I think our brick colonial house could best be described as "ponderous," and light and openness and joy are what I want to be about. Financial constraints will deprive me of purchasing a different house, but this one could stand some emptying, some improvement -- and some COLOR.