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The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm - Winter Dreams March 2016

March 6, 2016

Winter Dreams
Around here, a lot of stories surround a man named Sandy, an architect who designed houses uncharacteristic of New England. With their low roof lines and blonde wood paneling, they might have been a better fit in California. A lot of people said he was ahead of his time or perhaps that he was living in the wrong place. This was back in the 1960s. I never knew the man but apparently he did not like winter. One story that I heard was that he designed a greenhouse to be built up above his house. He did not build it to grow anything. Instead, inside the glass house, he planted a big lawn that provided him with a winter fantasy – he could unfold his lawn chair out there and sit on green grass, enjoying the sun on the coldest winter day. He had six children so I imagine it was also a place for him to escape the mayhem, a kind of man cave before there ever was such a thing. I was so intrigued by that that I inquired and his wife invited me to walk up and have a look. Sure enough, there was the outline of the footings impressed in the earth with shards of glass scattered about this sharp-edged rectangle. You would have to know what it was in order to figure out what had once been there. What I saw was a dream in ruins. Sometimes dreams are the start of a reality: eventually, Sandy ended up living in Ireland, surrounded by all that green.
When I first moved here to Mary’s farm, there was a small hothouse that Mary had installed down near her garden. It was the kind that could be ordered from a gardening catalog, delivered in pieces and constructed on site. I understand that it was her dream to have such a way to extend her gardening season. Her father had been a gardener on one of the great Gatsby-like estates on Long Island and much of her gardening knowledge as well as plantings here came to her from him. I also had great hopes for that little conservatory and managed to start the process of making it a place where I could start seedlings and store garden tools. But a massive ice storm brought down a substantial portion of a big apple tree which punctured many of the glass panes and put a stop to my own dream of having a greenhouse. For a few years it sat idle. Then one day I ran into a man who told me he was interested in having such a greenhouse and it worked out that he would come and take it apart and move it to his place a few towns away. I was happy with that plan and he was happy as well. Over the course of a few Saturdays, he came and carefully took it apart, neatly stacking the glass partitions in his trailer and driving it all away.
I guess there were some bumps in the road to putting it all back together again, a whole humpty-dumpty story of its own but recently I saw this clever man and he was excited to tell me that the little greenhouse was back in business on a rise above the marsh behind his house. He showed me pictures, Mary’s glass house, snugly surrounded by snowbanks. It was a delightful second coming. I asked him what they grow in there. “Nothing,” he said, “we just like to go out there on a cold winter’s day and sit.” I told him then about Sandy and his winter lawn and he lit up. “What a great idea!” he said.
I saw the wheels turning. Who knows, after all these years, maybe Sandy’s idea will take root.

Selected Works

In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith. Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.) The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened." Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief