The View from Mary's Farm - Winter Dreams March 2016
March 6, 2016
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.