My first venture as a homeowner twenty-five years ago took me into the ground level of what had been a private men’s club a century ago. The upstairs units had been developed as luxury condominiums. Period detail stopped, however, at the last step of the staircase leading to two basement units with open layouts and compact windows in deep wells high in the walls.
Access to the lawns surrounding the white two-storey Victorian building was easiest from those garden-level spaces. It took me no time to begin to carry a folding chair out onto the lawn on a Saturday morning, settle with a book and poise a tumbler of water in the thick grass alongside the chair. Nothing in the condo docs prohibited my use of the common area in this way, but the owners of the six other units never followed suit. Occasionally one of them would halt in her approach to the parking area and greet me: “You have found the perfect spot!”
From my office at work I can look out on landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted. In saying that, I have given the reason most people would be interested in hearing about that edge of the property. From my office I nonetheless see and know how few people actually venture down the old walk. Our facilities staff keeps the area mowed and raked and trimmed and occasionally re-seeded. No one could fault us for not keeping the legacy up, but after a while enthusiastic appreciation fades amid the to and fro of everyday life.
One weekend last summer I suggested to a friend that we have a picnic in a quiet corner of the Olmsted-landscaped grounds. No one I know has taken advantage of the beautiful spot in just that way. We got to wend our way with the picnic hamper between century-old trees. Then we seated ourselves on a low ledge of masonry forming part of a trefoil design that gives definition to the sloping lawn. I remember looking up occasionally from bites into the sprouts and hummus wrap that I had made at home. What I got to survey about me that afternoon seemed a rare and lucky chance.
The hike was a cold one. There was no sign of the owners of the other car in the parking area of the Fenton-Ruby Park and Wildlife Preserve in Willington CT. As a friend named the hidden wonders along Taylor Pond Trail two weekends back, greens and browns and grays would suddenly separate and become distinct. He pointed and explained and bent down and touched.
And then something even I could not miss. It stood covered with moss, a great stony entrance into Hobbit-like fantasy. No sound around. Just cold and air and a world that keeps insisting on being seen.