I have a small, but picturesque, waterfall and stream in my backyard. It only flows for part of the year when there’s a lot of rain and/or snow. The summers are usually pretty dry. During those months, you can just make out a ribbon of rocks among the trees that mark the spot where the dormant waterfall sits silently.
This waterfall plays an important part in my life. As a kid, I used to play with my neighbor in the woods on my parents’ 40 acres of land in Connecticut. We climbed all around the waterfall that was in those woods. We perched on rocks at the spots with the best views of the rushing water. We tried to divert the water into different patterns. This proved difficult, if not impossible. But we had fun trying.
Flash forward 30 years. My mother has given me a piece of her land so I can build a house, next door to her country house. She wanted to keep me and her grandchildren close. We have to decide where to put the house and how to orient it. My ex husband, the architect and I walked through the woods and came across the waterfall, bordered by old world stone walls. Eureka!
This is where the house has to be! How could we not take advantage of this unique and glorious natural wonder? How many people get to look at something like this every day?
So the decision was made to place the house near the stone walls and the waterfall. But there was a conundrum. Most people want their houses to have a southern exposure, for maximum sun and light. But south for us meant that the house would have to face up the driveway, looking at nothing but the driveway and the woods. The waterfall was due west. Not the best exposure for the sun.
But for us, views were more important than sun (which bleaches out all your furniture and fabric anyway!) So we designed a house with LOTS of windows and angles that maximized the views of the waterfall. Therefore our living areas face west, not south.
I have been grateful for that decision every day for the past 29 years! The waterfall played an important part in the design of my house and continues to play an important part of my life every day I live in that house. It never fails to make me smile when I get to drink coffee and look out at it.
Looking at my waterfall, I don’t just get the usual sense of peace and Zen that everyone gets when they experience nature. I also get strong memories of my past. I first set foot on this Connecticut property when I was eight months old, in 1950. I took my first steps here. I am still part of my carefree childhood playing in the woods. I am still connected to my parents and their love of this property. Because of my deep love of this piece of land, I have called it “My Tara,” after Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved plantation.
Growing up, we lived in New York City nine months of the year (that’s where I went to school). I think that increased my appreciation of the country even more. It was a special summer treat for me. Also, my grandparents built a house on the property so I got to see them every day when we were all in Connecticut. That ramped the specialness and joys of the place up to eleven!
I moved to my house in the woods full-time in 1990, when my kids were five and ten years old. My mother, still a city lover, asked me why I could move out of the city after being exposed to all the cultural benefits of city life. I responded: “Because I was also exposed to the glories of country life. And that is what resonated more with me at that stage of my life.”
I’m grateful for all the years I got to spend in New York City. All the theater I got to see, all the museums, art galleries, ballets and concerts. But I can still drive in for those things if I want to. It’s more important for me now to be able to sit and write at my kitchen table, enjoying my view of the woods, of my dogs playing in the backyard, and, of course, of my waterfall.