Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Top of the Rock Proposal

Jeff had it all planned. A weekend in New York—nothing more romantic. He and Kara dressed up. An evening at Cirque de Soleil. Then a walk to Rockefeller Center.

“Let’s go skating,” he said. Kara didn’t want to lace up borrowed skates under her nice dress.

No worries. Jeff had Plan B ready. The little box was burning a hole in his pocket.

“Let’s go to Top of the Rock,” he suggested.

Kara liked that idea. She slipped through security’s metal detector, but Jeff was called back. He’d set off the beeper. Watch off. Belt off. Keys and change out of his pocket. Try again.

More beeping.

“What else have you got in your pocket?” the guard asked. Jeff took out the little box and held it to his chest. The guard had to step closer to see what he was gripping—close enough for Jeff to whisper.

“I’m going to propose,” he said.

“Okay, go on through,” the guard said. Security has a heart.

“What was the problem?” Kara asked.

“Faulty metal detector,” Jeff said. Was it the hinges on the velvet box that caused the uproar?

If you haven’t been to the observatory deck at the top of Rockefeller Center, you’re missing out—especially at night. Glittering city lights. The river dark and silent in the distance. It’s as if you own all of New York for a few magical moments.

And in those moments Jeff pulled out the little box and got down on one knee. He opened the box and looked up at the love of his life.

“Will you marry me?” he said.

“Are you serious?” she said. “Are you serious? Are you serious?”


“Yes, I’m serious.” He fitted the ring on her finger. “And I need an answer.”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, yes, yes!”

They were married a year later at the Inn at Baldwin Creek just down the road from Fern Forest. After the wedding, after the reception, after their first night as man and wife at the inn, the next day they found their way to Fern Forest Treehouse with their doggie Stella. "STEL-LA!" I can't say that name without yelling it, and I liked the puppy at once.

We had a vase of flowers and cold beer waiting for them on that hot afternoon. Nibbling popcorn, we watched the end of the World Cup final until time to get ready for dinner. H made them a reservation at the Bobcat Café, and we were off with friends to Inn at Baldwin Creek—there’s not much choice about where to eat around here, and you can’t lose with either venue.

When we returned to Fern Forest, the newlyweds and Stella were already nestled in the treehouse. In the morning we made them chocolate croissant French toast with macerated fruit, whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup, Vermont granola, and Greek yogurt. While they ate, we learned that Kara has a master’s degree in education and teaches two-year-olds near their home in Poughkeepsie. She chose Vermont for her wedding because her father is vice president at nearby Middlebury College. Jeff is saving the world as a sustainability consultant for an organization that provides “go green” initiatives to lower the carbon footprint at colleges. These two are working to save the world, one child and one college at a time. They even rescued Stella from a puppy pound.

After breakfast, the go-getter couple left to climb Mt. Abe before heading back to New York. Jeff and Kara are full of vitality and optimism about the future, and we were energized by their stay with us. Jeff promises to bring Kara back to Fern Forest for their first anniversary, and we plan to hold them to that. We’re eager to see what the first year of marriage brings them—and we hope they bring Stella with them, too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweet Cream Delivered to Fern Forest

Last week’s guest at Fern Forest Treehouse was a cream specialist. Cream specialist—I salivate just saying it. Richard is a farmer’s son so of course he knows about cream. And milk. But not cheese—his father sends the milk away to be made into cheese. Nothing cheesy about Richard.


Imagine a cream specialist who’s a wiry six-three and has an Irish accent. Did I mention his father’s farm is in Northern Ireland? (Seamus Heaney country.) And imagine the Irish accent seasoned with an ever-so-slight Asian flavor. Did I mention that Richard lives and works in Taiwan?


And did I mention he’s quite handsome?


Before I hyperventilate, I suppose I ought to tell you that Clare was with him. She’s a seraphic dark-haired beauty with a lovely smile who lives in Oxford, England, where she sells real estate. And she’s sweet as pudding.


Richard and Clare were on their way to a wedding in Waitsfield and stopped for a night in the treehouse on the way. It was a hot night in Fern Forest, and we sat outside on the deck with glasses of chilled white wine. Richard deliberated about the best route to Waitsfield and pulled out his iPad to check google map. I gasped. Then he placed the iPad into my trembling hands and pulled out his iPhone. I want an iPhone. And an iPad. Then he handed me his iPhone. Imagine me deep in Fern Forest, hands filled with technology, sitting next to an Irish cream specialist who lives in Taiwan. It doesn’t get any better.


And suddenly I remember that the craze in Taiwan is ice cream served in little plastic toilet bowls. Delete memory. Focus on sound of crickets and rustle of fern fronds.


Richard warned us that he rises at 5:00 a.m. but not to worry—he’d just hook into our wifi and do some work but would be ready for breakfast early. So early we rose, and H made lemon poppyseed scones and I peeled oranges for orange-strawberry salad, and we set the table nicely and put out cashew granola and Greek yogurt and Vermont maple syrup and Vermont cider and our best Vermont cream. And we waited.


Nine o’clock rolled around before we saw a flash of pale Brit skin. There’s something about that treehouse that lulls a spirit into languor. Even a blithe spirit like Richard. Clare, I discovered, lives not far from where she was raised in Oxford and has a ten-year-old daughter who loves to read. She has devoured everything Harry Potter and Twilight. “You might read the Twilight series with her,” I advised. “I’ve read them all,” Clare said. Good mama. I gave her my first book, The Black Bonnet, a story set in Burlington, Vermont, in 1858 about fugitive slaves escaping on the underground railroad. I hope Clare’s daughter will read it and send me her thoughts.


The morning was still hot, but Clare and Richard went back out to the treehouse to read a bit before heading for Burlington, where Richard had reserved an air-conditioned room at the Hilton. Handsome and techno savvy and smart—lucky Clare.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Of Waterfalls and Wine

Fern Forest has been sweltering in this July heat. Last weekend, before the inferno, Alana surprised her Los Angeles boyfriend Aaron with three nights at the treehouse. Alana is a dental hygienist in Boston, and Aaron has just moved to Boston to begin studying acupuncture. They tell us that dentists are starting to use acupuncture in place of Novocain, and maybe one day these two will be in business together.

Their first night with us was a little crowded. Richard, a colleague of mine at Spalding University where we teach in the MFA in Writing Program, had brought his daughter Becky up from New York City to look at colleges, and nearby Middlebury was on the list. I had invited my friend Dora to have dinner with us, and everyone arrived about the same time. We emptied a bottle of wine and finished off a platter of cheese and crackers, and then we all headed to the Bobcat Café for dinner. Later, we put Becky in the guest room and stashed her dad on the bed in H’s basement office, and Alana and Aaron made their way to the treehouse.

Heat fell over us the following day and, after Richard and Becky said farewell, we took the Bostonians to the river along Downingsville Road. The river descends steeply over half a dozen waterfalls, and each cascade spills into a swimming hole.

We made our way down the river, stopping for a swim whenever we found water deep enough.

Although the New Haven River is crowded with people from Bristol and Lincoln because of its deep sections and impressive boulders, there was no one else on this smaller river with no name. Imagine having a pristine stream decorated with swirling water and mossy rocks all to yourself.

“Who made this?” Aaron said, as if he were back in the land of movies and artificial scenery.

“Glaciers made it,” H told him. The water is glacier cold, too, and stings the skin until you get used to it. Aaron acclimated quickly and was like a seal in the water.

We hiked about half a mile down the stream, swimming and wading and picking our way over rocks, and finally climbed out at the old schoolhouse that’s now a residence. This was the first time we’d taken treehouse guests to this particular body of water. It’s hard to get to—no paths, no signs. You just have to know about it. Now you know. But please don’t tell another soul.