Ponczka, the fiercely creative woman that I share this life adventure with, had one of her frequent brilliant inspirations. She got it in mind that we ought to buy one of the fantastically affordable getaways somewhere in those hills. We love the area already, from driving through on our trips to the City, and from our stay at the Millay Colony this winter. And I, also from further back, when my brother lived in Rochester for all those years, and I drove there along route 20 a few times.
Ponczka had attuned all her revived nesting energy into dreams for a schoolhouse, built in 1880, tucked just off a winding road on Canandaigua Lake. We saw that when driving through from my reunion a month ago. But she’d found other interesting properties, and so we looked at them too, almost as a formality. And the last of them captured us before we knew we’d been caught.
It’s inhabited by Shadow Hill, artist and therapist, who had the small cabin built by Amish neighbors, and who has tended the grounds, the small pond, the workshop and paddock, the beautiful outhouse (yes, it’s one of many special, inviting spots on the grounds) with an embracing care. Shadow is Cherokee and she says it’s been a spiritual home for her, and a healing place, and that the goodness of her neighbors is in the wood they built with. Shadow is a practitioner of “fallen art”. She merges found, fallen objects into sculptural and totemic tools of living: scepters and dream-catchers and smudging fans. And the imprint of her is on the place, giving it depth and story, and a welcoming energy.
Ponczka was instantly drawn to this vibrant place, but emotionally, she’d already moved into the schoolhouse. She’d planned the sleeping loft to be built off of the single, large schoolroom, had visualized a gazebo for the yard, and a small roadside gallery for displaying her paintings.
We slept and talked and emailed and dreamt and phoned about it for a couple of days. Then, on what happened to be solstice, the first day of summer, we drove down again in the late afternoon, and spent an hour and a half, strolling and lounging, looking and feeling the place.
And suddenly, possibilities begin to rain down. There’s an awareness of the space, room to stretch out into. I’m recognizing all sorts of choices, a sense of play welling up, and of freedom, qualities I’m reminded are always in reach, despite that I so rarely really embrace them. What I’ve been feeling was a narrowing that I’m groping my way into suddenly spouts corridors, and walls mist away. (Of course, it’s never so simple. But so much of life is in the eyes, after all. So, so much to see. And what do I choose to see?)
After awhile, Ponczka too begins to see us there and feel us there. She will have her painting gear in the workshop, and I’ll be on the shady side of the house, writing. She can feel the cold of winter pounding the walls and the metal roof, while the little wood-stove radiates its heat. And she sees herself plunging into the pond on a summer morning, just as it’s getting hot.
There will be lots to do, from mowing the grass, to chopping wood, to lugging water and fuel for the small generator – no water, no electricity. A different life and world to get to know. Shocks to absorb. Oh, man! What changes are ahead. Hopefully, we have only a few, minor illusions to be shown our way clear of. It will take time.
As we are leaving, I ask Shadow if the place has any kind of name. She says that someone once called it Cloud Nine. We will drop the nine.