Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Mugs and some Magic Hat


Stanford. West Point. Harvard. Treehouse guests Kim and Brendan do not lack for education. They met in middle school and were friends all through high school. Good enough friends to go to the senior prom together. Good enough friends to stay in touch when Brendan went off to West Point. Such good friends, in fact, that when he came home one summer, they reconnected.


And they fell in love.


They were married in a ceremony at West Point, Brendan handsome in his military uniform. West Point means a five-year commitment for service in the Army, but a medical problem earned him a discharge. When Kim got a job at Stanford, he earned a graduate degree there. When she got a job at the Harvard Business School, he enrolled for an MBA. He’ll be doing an internship this summer and has job possibilities lined up. If they have to relocate from Boston, Kim is okay with that. She rolls with whatever comes along. She’s committed to Brendan for better or worse.


Even when worse is just a sprained an ankle.


A few days before they arrived, Brendan was playing basketball and came down wrong on his foot. We sat him down and gave him an ice pack. When he took off his sock, I could see the ankle was purple and swollen. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll be fine.” Which meant that he’d get up into the treehouse loft somehow and that he’d manage to navigate Fern Forest and surroundings for three days. With Kim’s help, he did.


Kim drove them to Shelburne Farms, where Brendan took her picture cuddling a chicken and petting the lambs. Then a stop at Magic Hat Brewery for samples of the latest brew. Finally to Burlington, where she helped Brendan limp down Church Street for lunch at Halvorson’s followed by a stop at Ben & Jerry’s. A couple scoops of vanilla chocolate chip cookie dough takes away the pain.


It felt like they’d been together longer than the three years they’ve been married. But, then, they’ve known each other nearly all their young lives. So, how do you know at such a young age that he’s The One? For these two, it may have been the comfort level. They grew up near each other. Their parents are friends. They saw each other every day. There are no games, no surprises.


They may not know what the future holds for them, but they know one thing—whatever the future brings, they’ll accept it together.


On Sunday they left us two Harvard Business School mugs, two large bottles of Magic Hat brew, and a feeling that in the midst of the tumult of the world, there is something solid and very right.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Perigee Moon Rising


It was sweet
of Lynne to bring boyfriend Dave to the treehouse for his 38th birthday. They were both
born in the Year of the Ox and, in true Ox form, they work hard. Lynne is employed in an oral surgeon’s office. “We don’t fix teeth,” she says. “We pull teeth and do implants. If you can’t afford to have teeth worked on, you come to us. We are the last resort.”

I stuck my tongue into the gap between two molars, remembering when my mother had one of my teeth pulled. Too many marshmallow chickens at Easter, I guess. The surgeon should have put an implant in the space to keep the other molars from slanting, causing the gum to recede. Anyway, too much information. And it’s too late for undoing the damage.

Lynne’s teeth are straight and white. She has that rosy disposition you expect when you go in to have your teeth looked at. Sweet. Polite. Instantly likable.


Dave is a plumber, working mostly on corporate buildings. He starts at 7:00 a.m. and by 3:30, he’s done for the day and off to the gym. He’s a big guy with a trimmed beard, and he wore a funny checkered driver cap the whole time he was in Fern Forest. He and Lynne have been hanging together for six months. They seem a good fit.


They had dinner at the Bobcat and afterward, on the waitress’s recommendation, drove a half hour to Middlebury to watch the basketball playoffs at Two Brothers, a sports bar frequented by the college students. It was a clear, cold night with a bad moon rising. Meteorologists call it a perigee moon, when the orb is full and the closest to the earth it can get. There are forebodings of natural disasters associated with the “bad moon,” but that Saturday night was calm. Lynne and Dave returned safely to Fern Forest and cuddled into the treehouse. No disasters. No drama. A quiet night with the giant moon casting tree shadows over the snow.


H was in the midst of a weekend hockey tournament, but he made cheese omelets, cooked up some bacon, and put them in the oven to keep warm before he left for the Sunday morning game. He wasn’t disappointed to lose because a win meant his team would have to play in the finals that afternoon. He plays Sunday nights in another league, and that would have made six games in four days. He can’t get enough.


After they had breakfast, Lynne and Dave sat in the living room and read about the Ox in my Chinese zodiac book. It seems Dave is shy but schemes. Stay on his good side. Lynne has lots of energy. She runs half marathons when she can and is a daily five or six-miler.


“How do you do it?” I asked.


“Music,” she said. “I couldn’t run without my iPod.”

I’d like to get her song list.

Dave gave me plumbing advice about installing an outdoor shower. He made it sound easy. Then I picked his brain about putting an addition on the south side of the house to extend the kitchen. He made that sound easy, too. I have a feeling he was just being nice.


Lynne said she’d like to hike Mt. Abe on their next trip. This trip she brought only city shoes. Dave said he’d have to get into better shape to keep up with her. She patted his tummy. She had gone on a run before they drove up from Somerville, Massachusetts, but this Sunday morning there was only kicking back, watching the mountain change as the sun moved over it, drinking another cup of coffee, enjoying a few more minutes of the peace of Fern Forest.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fern Forest Peace Park

Todd drove up from Massachusetts to meet Abbey’s bus coming from Montreal. She was taking a hiatus from her third year of law school at McGill to spend two nights with Todd at Fern Forest Treehouse. I was looking forward to meeting them and learning what these two energetic young people are up to.


But that didn’t happen. At least not right off.


Abbey takes her studying seriously. She brought snacks. And books. She was staring final exams in the face and was prepared to study the night away, high up in the maples. Todd is founder, executive director and lead guide of International Peace Park Expeditions, a peace-building operation for college kids designed to “nurture the next generation of leaders for a more peaceful global community,” according to his website. He had preparations to make for the upcoming 16-day expedition at a peace park in the Balkins. He would work into the night next to Abbey.


We’d have to wait until morning to get acquainted with these assiduous guests.


Over eggs (no meat for these food and environment conscious folks), we found that the focus of Todd’s program is on developing programs in outdoor experiential education, similar to a NOLS course, and practical skill training in peace building and conflict resolution, aimed at conflict-plagued youth. Participants can earn college credit for their work, which combines traditional academic learning and outdoor experience. Todd is launching the effort at peace parks in Costa Rica, Panama, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, as well as the Balkans


Abbey is focusing on women’s issues in the law and plans to take the bar in Massachusetts, where Todd is headquartered. I’m awed by the energy and commitment of these two.


On Saturday they took a break and did a little shopping in downtown Bristol. There’s not much to see there, but they don’t demand much. I think they were happy just hanging out together. That evening I suggested they splurge and take in the chocolate buffet at Mary’s, an upscale restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek. The owners, Doug and Linda, always create understated elegance and scrumptious meals featuring localvore. I don’t know where the chocolate comes from, but there was plenty of it. Todd raved about the brulee. The chocolate dipped strawberries endeared Abbey. Chocolate cake, cookies, brownies, and chocolate sauce to dip everything. They deserved it.


We barely heard them come back and didn’t hear them at all when they climbed into the hot tub and let the steam melt the snowflakes as they floated down through the pergola.


The bad news is that they had to leave the next day. The good news is that Todd has already booked two more treehouse nights for this summer. Abbey will be studying for the bar then, and Todd can tell us about his adventures in the Balkans.


In some of his PR, Todd wrote that Nelson Mandela called the International Peace Parks a “concept that can be embraced by all.” Yes. We all should embrace peace. Peace for women as well as for men. Peace for all countries on this stressed out earth. I’m glad Todd and Abbey both think it’s not too late.