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Totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, House, Ice House, Lake Champlain, Renovation & Rehabilitation on July 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Today’s question from Al Katkowsky‘s Question of the Day book was the perfect invitation to reflect on Rosslyn Redux, the “big picture”!

What should you definitely not have done that turned out okay anyway?

In the summer of 2006 I definitely should not have purchased a dilapidated, almost two hundred year old house in Essex, New York. Definitely not. Not if I wanted to stay sane, solvent or married. Not if I wanted to do anything else in my life except for renovating, babysitting contractors, and nurturing this handsome old house back to life…

But I was totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced by Rosslyn, a sagging-but-still-stately, almost two century year old property on the Adirondack shores of Lake Champlain. My new bride and I swapped Manhattan for North Country bliss.

Our plan? Renovate a home. Grow a garden. Plant an orchard. Raise a dog. Swim, sail, ski, hike, bike and live happily ever after.

Or not…

Over a hundred carpenters, tradesmen and artisans later; over four times our budget and planned timeline later; and over countless marriage-testing misadventures later we finally finished our renovation. In time for the biggest flood in over two centuries to swamp our boathouse and waterfront for two months…

We should definitely not have undertaken this wildly ambitious project. But we did. And it turned out okay anyway. So far!

Check out RosslynRedux.com for a vicarious plunge into the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of our renovation, marriage and North Country life.

Rosslyn for Sale

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Historic Essex, House, Lake Champlain, Memoir, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 16, 2011 at 11:16 am
Rosslyn for sale, November 2004

Rosslyn for sale (photo credit Jason McNulty)

Susan and I were driving back to Rock Harbor after visiting Rosslyn, an early 19th century home in Essex, New York, which our realtor had just shown us for the second time in several months.

It was spring. At least a dozen sailboats speckled Whallons Bay as we wound south along the edge of Lake Champlain. Small white caps, light wind, bluebird skies above. Two fishing boats trawled between the beach and Split Rock where a glimpse of Vermont was visible within the cleft.

We veered away from the lake and up Couchey Hill toward one of the most picturesque views of in the Champlain Valley. Hurricane, Giant, Dix and the Jay Range were silhouetted against cloud specked blue skies to the east. An undulating patchwork quilt of hayfields and tree lines stretched to blue green foothills clumped against the Adirondack Mountains.

Half an hour can vanish in a single breath while watching a sunny day expire here. Even at midday the view is an open-ended invitation to linger.

But with minds and mouths racing, we did not even slow down on our way back to Rock Harbor. We were sorting engagements, worrying over deadlines and synchronizing schedules for the week ahead. After a quick lunch, we would drive back to Manhattan. Although the trip could be as quick as five hours, Sunday afternoons were typically slower with increased traffic around Albany and returning weekenders adding to the congestion.

Imagining Rosslyn Boathouse, Spring 2006

In Boathouse, House, Lake Champlain, Memoir, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 12, 2011 at 10:44 am
Rosslyn Boathouse at Sunrise

Rosslyn Boathouse at Sunrise

“Coffee? You don’t even drink coffee,” Susan said.

“I know. I know it doesn’t make any sense. But I’m walking through Rosslyn early in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee…”

I hadn’t drunk coffee since college, and I’d obviously never wandered around Rosslyn at the crack of dawn either. But I kept having this vision.

“It’s just barely sunrise. You’re still sleeping. I’m up, drifting from room-to-room, slowly, haltingly, studying the way the sunlight illuminates each room. And those green walls in the parlor? They vibrate in the morning light, like new maple leaves in the springtime.”

I described the shaft of sunlight stretching across the workshop floor. I described the calm, the quiet except for an occasional creaky floorboard. I described Tasha, our Labrador Retriever, padding along with me, anxious for breakfast.

“Tasha sighs and lies down each time I stop. And I stop a lot… to watch the morning unfolding, to watch the sunlight shimmering on the rippled lake, to watch the boathouse clapboards glowing yellow orange for a few minutes as the sun rises above the Green Mountains.”

“I was imagining the boathouse too,” Susan said. “Not like today, but like it was ours, like we lived at Rosslyn. I was thinking, the boathouse’s just begging for a hammock. Don’t you think? A big, two-person hammock in the open-air part, under the roof. Can you imagine lying in a hammock in the evening, listening to the waves?” Susan paused, lost in the idea. “And think of the dinner parties,” she continued. “A table set for four. White linens and candles and sheer curtains billowing in the breeze…”

Rosslyn’s Redneck Yacht Club

In Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, House, Ice House, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story? on April 25, 2011 at 7:28 am

I challenge any red blooded American who’s spent a little time in the country to dislike Redneck Yacht Club from Craig Morgan‘s 2005 album My Kind of Livin.

Can’t do it! Redneck, city slicker, suburbanite, exurbanite, whatever… If you give this energetic summer anthem a second or two you’ll be hooked. Scoff if you need to. Turn up your nose if your tastes are too refined for the Redneck Yacht Club. But I’m gambling that the next time you hear it pumping out the window of a slow-passing pickup truck you’ll smile. And hum the chorus. And admit to yourself that it’s a pretty catchy tune.

Here’s a little taste of the chorus. Try to read it without singing/humming the melody. Just try!

Basstrackers, Bayliners and a party barge,
strung together like a floating trailer park,
anchored out and gettin loud.
All summer long, side by side,
there’s five houseboat, front porches astroturf,
lawn chairs and tiki torches,
regular Joes rocking the boat. That’s us,
the redneck yacht club.
(CowboyLyrics.com)

See what I mean? So, your Chris Craft tastes don’t feel comfy with a song about Bayliners and party barges… So what? Stop judging and start bobbing your head!

I did.

You see, for the first year (or two?) that my bride and I were renovating/rehabilitating Rosslyn, Redneck Yacht Club played on always-on WOKO again and again. I don’t remember for sure, but I may have scoffed outwardly (and hummed inwardly) the first time I heard the song. But not the second. I laughed. I sang along. I went out and bought the album! Several years later, WOKO is no longer the default radio channel at Rosslyn, but I still hear the song from time to time. And when I do, it transports me instantly to the days of demolition, of surprises (mold, rot, bad electric, bad plumbing) and a mushrooming scope of work. It also takes me back to a house full of laughing contractors, rambling stories, off-color jokes and meals shared on sawhorses and upturned compound buckets.

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