Mary's Farm: A Room Becomes Paradise
It has been more than 11 years since I bought Mary’s farm. You, readers, have been patient listeners of its progress, as I’ve reported sporadically in this column. Work was so slow at times that the project moved more in the tempo of evolution. Money was always an obstacle, and the will of an old house had to be considered. In all, the house has been almost completely rebuilt–new windows, new wiring, new plumbing, new rooms fashioned from the old. There were seven bedrooms in this house at one time, but now there are only three, the others transformed into dining room or open porch.
For a while, I had my writing space downstairs, in what once was a dining room and a den. But the commotion of the renovation–the sawdust and the shrill noise of the work–convinced me to move out of the house, which I did, into a rented space in the nearby town of Peterborough. I worked there for several years. Finally, there was only one space left that hadn’t been finished: the third floor, or what some would call an attic. When I bought the house, there were two dark bedrooms up there–one windowless like a tomb and the other with one rattly window looking east. Both were confined by the slanting line of the roof. In favor of a pantry for the kitchen, we removed the stairway, a steep ladder-like ascent, and sealed off that space for the time being.
When the time came, my thoughts returned to that upstairs space. We put in new stairs, still steep but less so, and then there was a whole new space in which I hastily created a makeshift guest room.
But I wanted to return home to work. My office, more of a beating heart than my own, needed to come home. The darkness has been healed by the addition of a dormer on one side and a skylight on the other. Insulation, which captures the heat and holds it, has been added. The window to the east has been replaced and now provides an expansive view of the meadows. Looking out these windows gives the impression of being in a tower, overlooking paradise. And so I came to call it that, “The Paradise,” the ultimate part of the house, accessible at last.
Now, in this house, the stairway leads to heaven. From The Paradise, I can see deer grazing or tractors mowing, bear on the run, or turkeys strutting. Looking up through the skylight, I see the web of branches from the big maple, the top of the mountain, and the ever-changing sky–all three, glimpses of eternity.
Last May, I gave notice at my rented space in Peterborough and started the move. Moving an office is like moving a part of the brain. Friends helped me carry the filing cabinets, the notebooks filled with scribbles, the boxes marked Lyme Disease and Connecticut River, as if they were living organisms, and the process of reshuffling my sense of place began. In my case, the office is small, cozy is the word I use–a tight fit for my desk and computer, the copy machine, and, not to forget, the napping couch, a writer’s best friend. And all these files, the physical memory of the stories, the places, the imaginings so far, now rest under the roof of Paradise.
Edie Clark’s memoir, The Place He Made, revised and updated, is now available at: edieclark.com