I’ve always lived in a place that’s close to the water – no more than a drive of a few minutes or so – and I don’t think I could ever live somewhere that wasn’t. The ocean in Palm Beach is within walking distance from our home and it’s beautiful, but there’s something about the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound that I love even more. I grew up here and spent most of my life here and you just can’t discount history and nostalgia. But beyond that, the harbors in the towns that dot the coast are so picturesque. I took this photo on a recent drive to the shore in Westport. The day was steaming hot, but I sat on a bench under a tree, inhaled the salt air as if it were an elixir, and enjoyed a lovely breeze. There’s a famous poem by John Masefield that starts, “I must go down to the seas again ….” I get it, John. I know just what you meant.
The author Thomas Wolfe said it many years ago and it’s still true. On this street in Greenwich, Connecticut, between the gray house on the left (peeking out from behind the trees) and the white house on the right is an empty piece of land. There used to be a little house there and when I was very young – from birth to age six – I lived in that house.
I don’t remember a lot about it, except for a general sense of where the rooms were and a few details about the kitchen, which was large compared to the rest of the house, had flowered wallpaper, and had windows that faced the back yard. I also remember a glassed-in porch and the color of the outside, which was red. There was a stone wall in the back yard that I think my father might have built. He was very handy. A weeping willow hung over the wall and I used to grab the branches and swing on them. My dad rigged up a tire swing by throwing one end of a rope over a branch of the willow and I used to swing on that too. As a kid, it seemed as though our back yard went on forever.
Over the past few decades I’d driven by the house from time to time when I was in Connecticut and it became abundantly clear that the yard wasn’t big at all. Not from an adult’s perspective anyway. Now it’s all yard. The property went into foreclosure several years ago and watching the house’s slow deterioration was sad. On my most recent drive-by I saw that the house had been razed, causing me to have one of those “Oh, wow” moments, accompanied by a skirmish in my stomach. I’m happy someone finally bought the property and will be building a new house there. I won’t be going back to look at it though.
While most people our age are downsizing, my husband Bob and I decided to do the opposite. We recently sold our Connecticut townhouse, our summer retreat, and bought a house house in a very small Connecticut town. During the process of unpacking over 100 cartons, we looked at each other several times and said, “Whose idea was this again?” Half of me still thinks we’re crazy. But then I look out the windows onto our back yard and I get it. Two acres of mature trees and shrubs, dozens of flowering bushes, and a river at the bottom of the hill make this place special. Not to mention the scampering chipmunks and the steady chirp of birdsong. It’s like living in a nature preserve. And we love the house. Maybe we are crazy, but I guess it’s the good kind.
I don’t have a green thumb. Let’s get that out of the way right off the top. Although we have a lot of orchid plants at our home in Florida and they bloom very nicely, it’s not because of anything I do. I just hang them outside under our trees where they can enjoy filtered sunlight and I water them when we don’t get enough rain. Other than that, I let nature do her thing and when the orchids bloom I bring them into the house. Among theother tropical shrubs in our garden, we also have four gardenia bushes. The smell of gardenias might be one of my favorite things in the world. Lately they’ve begun to bloom and I’ve been bringing a few of the blossoms into the house each day. Even two flowers will fill our kitchen with a fragrance that’s deliriously sweet. The flowers only last a day or so before they wilt, but for that short time their beauty and exotic scent are magical.