Thursday, December 17, 2015

Romantic Ramble Treehouse Style

When H got the idea to rent out the treehouse six and a half years ago, he wondered whether anyone would want to stay in a tiny dwelling thirty feet above the ground. Would guests be able to climb a steep ladder to get into the loft bed? Would they mind hiking seventy feet to the main house to use the bathroom? In a strong wind, the treehouse sways, and inevitably there are spiders. Would guests tolerate bugs, not to mention mice and squirrels skittering over the roof?
            The answer is an overwhelming, enthusiastic yes. Guests not only want to stay in the treehouse, but they clamor for a booking. As 2015 draws toward a close, every available night in 2016 is booked. Some have reserved nights six months to a year in advance. The only way to grab a lofty sleep anytime soon is if someone cancels.
            A New York gal canceled this past weekend because her boyfriend had broken up with her. Within twenty minutes, two parties were vying to scoop up the open spot. H wrote them that the first to accept a two-night stay (twice the income and half the work for us) would get the nod. A fellow named Winslow took the leap. He wanted to surprise his girlfriend Lilly with a couple nights in the maples for her 25th birthday.
Winslow, a tall, handsome San Franciscan, got to know Vermont when he was a student at Middlebury College. He is a cordial fellow with earnestness in his chocolate colored eyes that invites people in. After college he moved to Boston to work in finance, met Lilly, and cast his chocolate spell over her. She was smitten.
Lilly has a delicate beauty and an engaging smile. I could see why Winslow wanted to move the relationship forward with a weekend of surprises.
They drove to Fern Forest via Ripton, which requires navigating ten miles of narrow dirt road that winds along a babbling brook.
“Where are you taking me?” Lilly asked.
“You’ll soon see,” Winslow assured her. There’s much to be said for trust.
It was near midnight when they arrived, and the lights rimming the treehouse were aglow with color. We had even put a miniature Christmas tree with twinkling lights inside. H showed the two around and instructed them in using the hot tub. They quickly slipped out of their clothes, wrapped themselves in the thick bathrobes we had ready for them, and climbed into the hot water while a zillion stars blinked down on them.
In the morning we gave them a hearty breakfast. Lilly seemed pleased with the first phase of Winslow’s surprise. But he had more in store for her. We didn’t see them for the rest of the day.
On Sunday morning, Winslow gave us the details of their excursion. First they visited Stowe, a village near the ski area with lots of chichi shops and eateries, and a lunch of cheese fondue at a Swiss café. They both love dogs, and he wanted to treat Lilly to a dogsled ride. The snow gods have not smiled on Vermont yet this year but Peacepups Dogsledding had put wheels on the sleds, and she got to mush the huskies through the damp and mossy woods.
Winslow had heard of Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge and thought it would interest Lilly. He had no idea who the Von Trapps are and had never seen The Sound of Music, but the movie is one of Lilly’s favorites. Winslow scored again.
For dinner that night he took Lilly to Mary’s, an elegant farm-to-table restaurant housed in a rambling farmhouse not far from the treehouse. With candlelight on the tables, fireplaces lit with glowing logs, and Woody Jackson cow paintings overhead, they feasted on Chef Doug’s cuisine before coming back up the mountain for another hot tub soak and sips of the wine Winslow had brought along.
One would think Winslow had fulfilled Lilly’s wildest birthday wishes. But he had more in store—Sunday afternoon latte and French pastry at the Vergennes Laundry, and then to Burlington for a look at Lake Champlain.
As we got ready to say goodbye to our weekend guests, I detected a glimmer of enchantment in Lilly’s eyes. Out of Winslow’s earshot, she whispered to me, “His birthday is next month. How do I top this weekend?”
“I’m sure a candlelight dinner will do very well,” I answered. It’s better not to try to compete with a guy like Winslow, but he gets my vote for Boyfriend of the Year.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

From China to "Shu wu" ~ Cozy little (tree)house


Jing and Hua were late arriving for their night in the Treehouse. I had kept an eye peeled for them but wasn’t expecting two carloads to drive up. Hua came to the door first, his wife Jing following, while another young couple, a toddler, and an older man and woman worked their way out of the other vehicle. The Treehouse sleeps three cozily, but its hundred square feet are more comfortable for two. I wondered where in the world we were going to put seven people.
As Hua promptly explained, he and Jing drove from their Baltimore home and stopped in Saratoga Springs to visit friends—the couple with the two-year-old. The older couple were the toddler’s grandparents visiting from China. Everyone, even young Daniel, wanted to see the Treehouse. It’s a tight space, so they took turns having the tour. Jing and Hua went first while their friends waited in the spitting snow. It took three shifts to give everyone a look. Daniel especially marveled at the toys and a miniature treehouse perched on the desk.
We had offered Hua and Jing wine and cheese before dinner, but their friends wanted them to drive another hour to have dinner at a Burlington restaurant. We told our guests we’d leave the lights on for them. Hua and Jing were gone just a few minutes when they returned without their friends.
“We changed our minds,” Hua said. “Do you still offer wine and cheese?”
We said yes, of course. Years ago one of our sons had a Chinese friend, and every time our son visited the friend’s house, his mother asked, “Have you eaten?” Then, without waiting for an answer, she began to cook. As with any teenage boy, our son was delighted at the feast she prepared, and anyway, it would have been rude to refuse her offering of food. I suspected that since we had offered Hua and Jing some nibbles, they decided it was courteous to accept.
We made a reservation for them at a nearby restaurant, giving us an hour to get to know them over cheese and crackers. Jing accepted a glass of Vermont cider since she doesn’t drink alcohol. Her dark hair was swept back from her pearly face and tied into a knot, and she glowed with sweetness and quiet beauty. Hua sipped a little red wine and bubbled with personality, apologizing for his faulty English that flowed flawlessly and abundantly from him. He uses the name Klarke at work and with American friends because they find Hua difficult to pronounce, but we preferred to use his Chinese name. Jing said most people think her name is “Jean,” and she’s fine with that.
When Harry asked Hua how he had learned English so well, he said, “English is taught in primary grades in China” and added that some Chinese people learn English by watching “Friends,” a popular show there. Jing said the Chinese government blocks social media, so citizens have no access to English versions of Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
The two speak Mandarin together, the universal language in China, but Jing is from the Sichuan province in western China and speaks a different dialect from Hua, who grew up in Hunan. “When he speaks to his mother on the phone,” Jing said, “I can’t understand him.” As long as they were speaking English, we understood them both just fine.
In their mid-thirties, Jing and Hua have been married just over a year, having met in graduate school where they each were pursuing the PhD, Jing in pathology and Hua in technology. Jing now does post-doc work in cancer research at Johns Hopkins, and Hua works for PayPal in Baltimore. Since their families are so far away, they wed at Baltimore City Hall. “It was easier,” Jing said. Afterward they went out to dinner—just the two of them. Next month they’ll fly to China for visits with their parents.
Before they left for Mary’s Restaurant, we offered to show them the hot tub.
“It’s okay,” Jing said. “We’ll take showers.”
“I think you’ll like the hot tub,” I offered. When I pulled back the cover, steam rose into the frosty air. With Mt. Abe in the distance, I felt as if we were in Chinese poem. Jing smiled and dipped her fingers into the water. She had never been in a hot tub before.
By the time they returned from supper, snow was falling softly, but they slipped into the warm robes we offered and had a hot tub soak before climbing into the Treehouse loft for the night. In the morning the ground and Mt. Abe glinted with cold white stuff. We fed them a breakfast of fruit and waffles in the dining room. They had never had waffles before, and from the kitchen I saw Jing eat one as if it were a slice of toast. I’m not sure they knew what to do with the little pitcher of local maple syrup, and I didn’t want to embarrass them by showing them how to eat Vermont style.
Before they packed up to leave on Sunday, I asked Hua to teach me some words in Chinese. He wrote “please” (Qǐng) and “thank you” (Xièxiè) in Chinese script and pronounced the words for me. The word for treehouse is “Shù wū,” which Hua said means “cozy little house.” That seemed just right.
            The four of us went outside to take pictures, and Harry asked Jing if she likes living in the United States.
            “Yes,” she said. “There’s freedom—and YouTube.”
            “There’s also Facebook,” I reminded them. Jing doesn’t use Facebook much, but when Hua took out his phone and sent me a friend request, I readily accepted.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

School's back in session, and so is Fern Forest romance

             Ever think about what you were like in high school?

 Fern Forest Treehouse seems to be the destination for high school sweethearts. Jess and Chris are pushing thirty, and this weekend they were celebrating one year until their wedding next fall. She’s a gorgeous blonde who works in the Vermont governor’s office, and he’s a talkative engineer designing VAC for commercial businesses. The two Vermonters met on a blind date when Jess was fifteen and Chris was two years older. They liked each other immediately and dated throughout high school. When Chris went to Clarkson to study engineering, Jess saw him whenever he was home. After high school, she enrolled at SUNY Potsdam to be near him.
A few weeks ago we had a couple from Boston who fell in love when they were assigned high school lockers next to each other. At sixteen, Zoe had dated a few guys but didn’t connect with any of them. Then one day she and Brian were at their lockers at the same time. Their elbows bumped. She looked at him and knew. Now in their thirties, they’ve been married a year, and the magic is still alive.
Last month I went to my own high school reunion on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Once I read the guest list and was sure there would be no one there I had ever kissed, I told my husband he could come with me. H went to an all-boys boarding school and was very shy, so there wasn’t much chance he’d have fallen in love back then.
I had no idea how I came across to others when I was a teenager. One of the guys at the reunion said he was scared to death of me and used to avoid me in the halls. I played field hockey and was on student council. At the Christmas dance and the Prom I had been crowned to sit on the court with a few other popular girls. But I wasn’t aware that I intimidated boys.
“Was I so horrible?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “You were just—” It took him a few seconds to come out with it. “Just so well dressed.”
Me? Well dressed? I had no idea.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be so sure of yourself in the mid-teens that you’re willing to commit to someone for life?  It’s risky, isn’t it? I mean, we change so much with kids, mortgages, and the aging process. How do we know who we’ll want to be with as we grow old?
A while ago a couple in their fifties booked a night in the Treehouse. They had gone to the same high school and had even been lab partners in chemistry class, but they never dated. They each went separate ways, married, and then divorced. Years later, she went to a high school reunion, having forgotten about him. He didn’t show up at the event, but one of hs friends said, “I have a buddy I think you’d like.” He got them together, and they came to the Treehouse for their second date. Later she sent me a note saying they’d gotten just a few miles down the road before he pulled into a parking lot and they made out before heading home. 
Imagine being with someone who has known you since you were in your teens and liked you through those periods of insecurity, of hiding the zit on your chin, of saying stupid things and making stupid mistakes. Someone who forgave you because he or she was in the same boat. It must be a comfortable feeling.
Jess told us about Chris proposing on the island of Saint John. In the pre-dawn, they hiked up a
hill to watch the sunrise. Jess was busy filming the horizon on her phone when Chris tapped her shoulder. He was down on one knee, a diamond ring in his hand.
“How’d you know her ring size?” I asked him.
“Oh, I’ve always known that,” he said. “Always” means since she was sixteen, I guess.
On Sunday morning, as they were leaving, we gave them hugs and wished them all the best on their wedding plans.

“Maybe soon you’ll be planning a wedding, too,” Jess said. She meant one of our thirty-something sons, neither of whom has popped the question. Maybe they’re waiting for their next high school reunion.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fern Forest hosts Wild Things, crawling nudes, and a Meow Mobile



Rebecca and Doug look like perfectly normal people. In fact, they’re an unusually attractive couple. She’s a strawberry blonde, and he has a swarthy handsomeness. Neither has tattoos, no purple hair, no nose rings. Most of the time Rebecca is dressed in scrubs for her job as a surgical physician’s assistant, but when they arrived at Fern Forest she was wearing a simple peach colored dress. They were driving a black Mini Cooper—nothing outlandish about that.
            But take a closer look. Notice the hood ornament. Clawing her way toward the Mini symbol was a mini-voluptuous nude with flaming red hair flying back from her head as if blown by the wind. Rebecca sculpted the nude from clay and had it cast in black metal, then bolted it to the hood. The nude’s arm is raised, and her fist is threaded so Rebecca can screw in different items for her to hold. This weekend it was a winged dragon.
            “Nice car,” I said to Doug.
“This one’s mine,” he said. “Rebecca drives the Meow Mobile.” He whipped out his phone and showed me a picture.
The Meow Mobile is a Saab Rebecca bought new sixteen years ago and almost immediately began gluing things to it—all sorts of things. Toys, Homer Simpson, Frankenstein, and Einstein figurines. Zombies, pterodactyls, and a Mr. Potato Head dressed as Darth Vader. Nemo, Simba, Barney, Bugs Bunny, Princess Leia, and a rubber ducky. In fact, if it weren’t for the windows, one might not recognize the vehicle as a Saab. There’s barely an inch of original paint exposed.
            “Helps me find my car in a crowded parking lot,” Rebecca says joyfully.
A cop once stopped her just to take a picture of the car to show to his young son. In New Hampshire an officer detained her for 45 minutes trying to find an infraction to charge her with. But the Saab is perfectly legal and had just passed inspection in Massachusetts, where Rebecca and Doug live.
            Sounds like a perfect ride for a weekend in a treehouse. Doug, however, not sure how Vermonters would respond to Rebecca’s adornments, decided they’d come incognito this time—except for the Mini's hood ornament, which Doug admits he likes. He’s an attorney who after two decades of marriage still seems astonished by his wife’s creativity—and still seems deeply in love with her.  
            The cars, however, are small projects compared with their house outside Boston. It’s a lovely Victorian that Rebecca had painted a boysenberry color (she doesn’t like white). Doug told me that the Boston Globe had done a story on the house, and I found the article online. Inside, the walls are emblazoned with characters from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and lots of red and gold patterns influenced by the paintings of Gustave Klimt. The toilet tank in her sons’ bathroom is a glass fish tank swimming with live fish. A screen keeps the fish from getting flushed.
The guest room walls are painted with murals to look like a jungle, and a life-size stuffed toy lion perches on the canopy bed. There are stained glass designs on windows and doors, trompe l’oeil paintings, and hand-painted leopard spots on the wall of a small office. There’s even a whimsical tree house out back. All of it was fashioned by Rebecca, usually in the middle of the night.
            Obviously she doesn’t sleep much.
            Doug is a laid-back fellow who just shrugs when asked about his home and auto decoration.
            “We met on a blind date,” Rebecca says, grinning at her husband. “Things clicked.”
They bought the house together, had a son, got married, and had another son. They left the teenage sons at home this weekend for a romantic retreat.
“We don’t do things in the normal order,” Doug says quietly. It didn’t look to me like they did much in the normal order. They’re the type of folks who’ll choose a treehouse for a weekend getaway. And we loved having these bright, creative folks spend some time with us.
Most of the time they hung out in the treehouse reading or resting, only boarding the mini to go out to dinner. Rebecca said she couldn’t remember when she’d slept so well. Being surrounded by nature does that to folks.
H and I were both sad to see Sunday arrive when we had to say goodbye to this vibrant couple. But they left us a couple of important lessons. One is that people are going to judge you no matter what you do, so why not do whatever calls to you—like glue toys to your car and paint your house any darn way you want. The second lesson, even more important, is that life is short—we might as well make it fun.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Treehouse guest discovers his roots in an old millstone



In spring 1794, a group of men set their shoulders to clearing land in what is now Lincoln, Vermont. The footpath they blazed into the forest eventually became a road named for the Quakers who came to settle with ox carts holding all their belongings. They were young, strong, and healthy. Once they pried rocks from the fields, they found the soil rich enough to support their crops.
A year later, nearly one hundred residents, mostly from New York and Connecticut, scattered over 24,000 acres of wilderness, most living in tiny one-room cabins made from logs they hewed by hand from trees they had cut on their property. They cooked meals in stick-and-mud fireplaces, spun wool from their sheep, wove fabrics to make their own clothing, and cobbled shoes for their families. They hunted game in the forests and guarded their livestock from wolves that prowled the land. When the crops failed and game was sparse, they went hungry.
Quaker services were held in homes until they built a meetinghouse in 1801. Two years later, Chase Purinton brought his wife and eight children to Lincoln from New Hampshire. He had shod his six cows and four oxen, as well as the two horses, in preparation for the rocky journey. When he arrived, Chase bought land on Quaker Street that held a cabin built earlier by another settler, and immediately he set up a blacksmith shop. His ironwork filled a desperate need for settlers wanting to plow and clear with horses and oxen. Nearby Beaver Meadow Brook flows into the New Haven River, and Chase siphoned water from the brook to operate a gristmill for grinding local grain into flour. He and his services were welcomed by his neighbors.
            This past weekend, Treehouse guest Alli surprised her boyfriend Tyler Purinton with a night high in the trees to celebrate his 23rd birthday. We were surprised and pleased to learn that Tyler is a ninth generation descendant of Lincoln’s own Chase Purinton. Tyler was surprised and pleased to learn that Chase Purinton was one of our town’s early settlers.
He pronounces his last name “Purr-ing-ton.” 
“That’s the way it’s always been,” he said. 
Tyler is handsome with dark hair and friendly brown eyes that gleam with trust and honesty. He and Alli recently graduated from the University of Vermont, where they met. With his degree in political science, Tyler works for the Vermont state government in Montpelier. Alli works with children with special needs in New York State and was visiting Tyler for the weekend.
            Half a mile from the Treehouse up Quaker Street is a millstone that stands as a monument to the Purinton homestead. The round stone etched with the words, “Chase Purinton settled here in 1803” was set by Purinton’s descendants one hundred years after he became a Lincoln resident. Behind the monument, Mount Abraham rises like a sentinel.
             Tyler was raised in Starksboro, a town just to the north of Lincoln, but he had no idea that his ancestor had lived nearby. When we told him about the millstone and Purinton Road just beyond it, he wanted to have a look.
            The skies were threatening rain, but he and Allie hiked up Quaker Street, past the fields where one autumn I saw four moose hanging out, and past the former town clerk’s farmhouse with her ponies grazing in the pasture. Beyond the clerk’s fence, the Purinton landmark sits several yards back from the road. Chase Purinton’s cabin is long gone, but when the snow has melted, someone mows the grass and plants flowers around the millstone.
            When Tyler and Alli returned from their pilgrimage, I asked him how he felt standing in front of the memorial site.
            “It was almost spooky,” he said. “I felt as if I had come full circle.”
            On Sunday, as if to leave his mark on the territory, he and Alli climbed Mount Abe. The mountain is the fourth highest in the state and no easy hike. The day was damp and cloudy, but their spirits were sunny. When they arrived back at the Treehouse, they bubbled with enthusiasm.
“It seemed like we were on the edge of the world,” Tyler said.
As they were leaving, Alli promised they’d be back for another night in the Treehouse and another climb up the mountain. I believe our little town had cast its spell over them as it did the early Quaker Street settlers. The Irish poet John Guthrie felt the spell, too, when he visited Lincoln 1950s and wrote:
                        “There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
                        as that valley in Lincoln where the cold waters meet.”
           

             

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A treehouse makes everything better


A treehouse changes everything. 
Byrd asked to stay in the treehouse on Monday night. Usually we don’t accept reservations on Mondays, but she seemed like she really needed some nurturing.
She had been taking care of her elderly mother, and when her mother died, Byrd felt deep grief. Taking time off from her job as an airport gate attendant, she had spent the last several days alone in her mother’s house, surrounded by her mother’s things. She hadn’t been out of the house or spoken with anyone in a week.
We thought it was time for her to come out of her shell.
Speaking of shells, when Byrd drove up, I pointed out the bright blue robin’s egg that somehow had been deposited on the path to the front door. Ants had eaten the yolk, but I hadn’t wanted to dispose of the egg, like a small gift by the steps. Byrd thought it was a good sign, since her real name is Robin. I thought so, too.
Before she settled into the treehouse for the night, we offered her a drink and some cheese and had a chat about her job, which she doesn’t like very much. She talked about her son—her only child—who is off at school, and how she feels very alone. We sympathized and told her that the acres of nature surrounding the treehouse might help her mood. I dearly hoped so, for her sake.
That night a cold front rolled in. The wind blew and rattled branches. Lightning struck close by, and thunder rumbled. Sometime after midnight I got up and looked out the window to see if Byrd was okay. The lights were out, so I assumed she was sleeping through the storm.
In the morning she came in for breakfast with a smile on her face.  The storm had awakened her, but she liked the sounds of branches rattling and wind whistling. Before daybreak she had turned on a light and read, snuggled in the cot below the sleeping loft. Then she got up, determined to climb the scary vertical ladder to the loft. On the second attempt, she made it and giggled at her success. She and the treehouse had made friends.
Over breakfast Byrd told us that she once skated with the Ice Follies, traveling all over the world. She had a long love affair with a rock ‘n’ roll drummer and met lots of musicians while she was touring with the Ice Follies. Her face brightened as she recalled those days when she wore a long hippie skirt and a Mexican shirt, her hair dangling in braids. She offered to give me ice skating lessons next winter when she returns to the treehouse. I need the lessons, but I was more delighted that Byrd had enjoyed herself enough for another visit.
That’s the way it is in a treehouse. Nature, even when she’s agitated, has a way of smoothing out our wrinkles. If you’re sad or lonely or just overwhelmed, a night in a treehouse can make everything better. 
Just ask Byrd.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day Russian Style

            A year ago Vlad and Brittany were given a weekend in the Treehouse as a wedding gift. Shortly after the wedding, Brittany was growing heavy with their first child, and her protruding belly prevented her from climbing a tricky ladder to sleep in a tree loft. So they waited a year, during which time little Galena came into their lives—and, on this Mother’s Day weekend, into ours.
            When he was nineteen, Vlad moved from Russia to Los Angeles with his parents. He met Brittany while he was studying for his PhD at M.I.T. Brittany, a pretty, seraphic blonde, was at Harvard Medical School at the time. Obviously things clicked. They dated for a year, and a week after Vlad moved into Brittany’s Cambridge condo, they were married.
            Russians are very close with their families, and Vlad’s mom Tatiana came from California to help with baby Galena. This past weekend, all four of them came to Fern Forest to honor the wedding gift. Tatiana and Galena stayed in the guest room in the main house, giving Brittany and Vlad some honeymoon time in the Treehouse.
            Vlad is a photo tech for Facebook, and Brittany is a hematologist-oncologist in Boston. She talked a little about her work while she swayed Galena in a salsa dance through the dining room or Galena knocked over wooden block towers we built on the floor. When the baby napped, the newlyweds retreated to the Treehouse, and we got to know Tatiana.
A young-looking and very fit grandma, Tatiana told us about raising two sons on the outskirts of Moscow more than thirty years ago. There were no disposable diapers and no washing machine, so Tatiana had to wash cloth diapers by hand and hang them on lines she had strung through the living room. Once the diapers were dry, she ironed them to kill any bacteria in the Russian water. She ironed the bed sheets, too. When her husband came home from work, he often helped with the never-ending ironing.
            Money was tight for the Russian family. Tatiana got bones from the butcher and ground them up to make bone-meal patties. Chickens were skinny and blue-skinned and came with feet still attached. Tatiana scrunched up her little body to illustrate how thin the birds were. Her sons must have sucked nutrients from the bones because Vlad is now a strapping six-feet-four.
            Childcare in Boston runs about $3,000 a month, so Tatiana takes care of Galena while the couple are at work. She speaks only Russian to her, hoping Galena will pick up the language. During their weekend with us, she prepared the baby’s formula and food. Brittany believes Galena needs iron in her diet and made mash of liver and squash, at which Galena turned her head away. She preferred Tatiana’s homemade cottage cheese and squished banana and opened her baby-bird mouth for the little spoon until the container was empty.
            “She likes sweets,” Tatiana said and fed her fruit from the breakfast table.
            On Saturday Brittany nestled Galena into a carrier, and Vlad strapped the carrier onto his back for a hike up Mount Philo. Tatiana came along with a satchel of food for the baby. She plans to stay another year in Boston, leaving her husband Leonid in Los Angeles, but they talk via Facetime every night. Leonid understands the importance of getting children off on the right foot.
            I hope some day Galena will realize what a lucky gal she is with a beautiful mom and a loving grandma to care for her. She’s named after Tatiana’s mother, who died several years ago at age 79. There’s no Mother’s Day in Russia, so on this Sunday we celebrated all three mothers.
After they loaded their Jeep with a bag of toys, bottles of formula, berries, bananas, and homemade cottage cheese, it was time to say good-bye.
“Do svidaniya,” I said, a Russian term I picked up somewhere that means “until we next meet.”
Tatiana shook her head. “We say ‘poka.’ It’s the family way of saying goodbye.” She took Galena’s arm and waved the baby’s little hand at us.
“Poka, poka, poka,” Tatiana said. Galena just smiled, showing us all three of her teeth.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Treehouse honors the wedding of old friends Bollywood style


Last weekend Fern Forest hosted an Indian wedding. I don’t mean literally. The wedding took place in Mumbai this past November. We were invited but unable to attend, but two months later we gave Sagar and Jahnvi a wedding gift of two nights in the Treehouse.
Last April when they first visited us, these two Jains fell in love. Sagar shares a dental practice with his father on Long Island and as is the Indian custom, he lives in his parents' house. When he invited Jahnvi to visit for a weekend, he wanted a romantic getaway sans parents.
Enter the Treehouse.
The two stayed for three nights, and we were delighted to see them again on a Friday in January. Even though temperatures dipped deeply below zero, they didn’t seem to mind. The Treehouse is heated and cozy.
After Saturday breakfast, they showed us pictures of the events leading up to the wedding. There was a Bollywood-style party with choreographed dances performed by the bride and groom and their friends. Jahnvi danced a solo to “A Thousand Years” from Twilight. Her graceful moves showed her yearning for her future husband. She wore churidar pants under a flowing tunic and danced barefoot. Everyone danced, in fact, and of course there was lots of Indian food.
One evening before the wedding Jahnvi hosted an outdoor mehndi party for women with tents of gauzy fabric where artists scrolled henna designs on wedding party and guests. Jahnvi’s elaborate tattoos extended from her fingertips nearly to her shoulders and from her feet to her knees in beautiful symbolic images.
The wedding day was brilliantly bright. Traditionally grooms ride to the ceremony on a horse—or an elephant if they’re extremely wealthy—but Sagar chose to walk with his family and friends so he could dance. There was a lot of mischievous role playing with Jahnvi’s mother trying to get the upper hand on Sagar by trying to pinch his nose and Jahnvi's friends and family trying to steal his shoes. The parents looped a rope loosely around the couple to symbolize their union.
In spite of laughter and silliness before the wedding, the ceremony itself was serious. Jahnvi looked amazing with the traditional nose ring linked to a gold chain attached to her hair. A line of sparkly jewels ran above her eyebrows, and a pendant graced the center of her forehead. Dangling earrings, a collar of gold and jewels, and dozens of bangles added to the stunning effect of her sari’s layered silks.
Sagar didn’t look to shabby either in gold colored tunic and shoes, red churidar pants and red turban. He carried a coconut wrapped in rich cloth, a sacred symbol of purity, cleanliness and health.
It would take nearly as long as the ceremony itself to describe the symbolic rituals. Let’s just say everyone looked joyful and festive.
The following night was the reception, at which Jahnvi wore a blue 25-pound skirt sewn with thick embroidery. The heavy fabric reached the floor and the petite bride had to stand next to her handsome groom, who was dressed in a tuxedo this time, for four hours while they greeted more than fifteen hundred guests. Even in the photos her diamond necklace, big as a baby’s bib, dazzled.
Obviously H and I missed a good time. But we enjoyed spending a few days with this special couple at Fern Forest. Saturday night they served us a delicious meal from an Indian restaurant in New York. Dahl and paneer makhani, jeera rice, raita, and four flavors of nan with plenty left over for our Sunday dinner.
Indians like to party, and we’re looking forward to a gathering in New York in April for their friends who couldn’t make the trip to Mumbai. It will be a celebration of their marriage but also the one-year anniversary of their union high up in the trees. It doesn’t get more romantic than that.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

And the award for coldest night in a treehouse goes to....


We have a new record for coldest night spent in the Treehouse. Julian and Carina came up from Boston during their semester break from Emerson College, where they’re both sophomores. Even though we warned them about the cold and the snowy roads, they braved the mountain curves and hills in Julian’s clunker of a car. He was celebrating his 20th birthday and told us he was born on the coldest day of the year. He seems to be a record breaker where cold is concerned.
Julian managed to get his “wonky” auto to the bottom of our driveway where H met them and led them down to the Lincoln Library parking lot to leave their car. It took a while to transfer suitcases and several bags of their groceries into the my Subaru for the trip up our steep driveway. Obviously they weren’t planning on traveling for the next couple of days.
Carina turned nineteen in December but seems much older. The New Yorker is majoring in photography at Emerson, where she and Julian met. A tall lanky blonde with waist-length waves and pale blue eyes, Carina is a natural beauty.  Julian’s dark good looks come from his Chilean mother and German father. “I’m first generation American,” he says.
Tuesday evening they took over the kitchen and made themselves a pasta dinner. By the time they went for a soak in the hot tub, the temperature had dipped to minus ten. They dashed to the cozy Treehouse and cranked up the heat for a night that flirted with minus twenty.
In the morning we brought a little heater into the dining room to help the radiant floor warm things up. We were all glad to see the sun shining on Mt. Abe and the thermometer rise into the twenties. In spite of the cold, these two youngsters made sandwiches and hiked toward the mountain. The snow was too deep to go very far up the slope, but they took in the vistas of horse pastures and frozen ponds before returning to Fern Forest.
On Wednesday we made dinner together—pasta again—with Julian at the skillet. Over wine we got to know them. Carina lives in Mamaroneck with her mom and dad, a Wall Street banker who builds dories and kayaks and plays around with banjo, guitar and mandolin. She talked about photography and how lighting can make or break a model while she flipped through my issue of Detail with Johnny Depp on the cover (we obviously have similar tastes). Julian is a sound technology major and specializes in electronic music he composes on his computer. He has posted several pieces and tutorials on YouTube under “Beeza” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9_DvI5GQXc). Last year a movie producer contacted him about using his music in a trailer for the film Pacific Rim, and Julian accepted. Check out the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5guMumPFBag. He also DJs with his music and adapts other recorded songs by adding electronic sounds.
Oh, and he’s also a great cook. We love guests who make themselves at home, as these two did. They clear the table and clean up after themselves. And they’re hardy enough not to mind a frigid Vermont night. H and I consider it an honor to get to know bright, creative people like Carina and Julian. In spite of all the doom and gloom we see online and in the media about the future, we’re inspired to believe there’s a glimmer of hope with young folks like these among us.