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Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

Almost Logical

In Memoir, What's the story? on June 10, 2011 at 9:35 am
What if? Wondering what life would be like living full-time in the Champlain Valley...

What if? Wondering what life would be like living full-time in the Champlain Valley...

Within minutes we were tripping over each other, drunk with excitement, imagining one whimsical “What if…” scenario after another. No filter, no caution. Our reveries flitted from one idyllic snapshot to another.

“What if I finally sat down and finished my novel?” After dawdling self indulgently for a dozen years – writing, rewriting, discarding, rewriting, shuffling, reinventing – my novel had evolved from failed poetry collection to short story collection to novel to a tangle of interconnecting narratives that loosely paralleled my life since graduating from college. Too much evolution. Too little focus. But what if I made time to sit down and knock it out? Reboot. Start over. Find the story. Write it down. Move on.

“What if you weren’t sitting in front of your computer all day? Every day?” Susan asked, returning to a common theme. “What if you went outside and played with Tasha? Took her swimming or hiking or skiing every day?”

“What if all three of us went swimming or hiking or skiing every day? What if Tasha and I went jogging along Lakeshore Road instead of the East River?”

We could waterski and windsurf for half the year instead of just two or three months, starting in May with drysuits and finishing in the end of October. We could sail the Hobie Cat more instead of letting it collect spider webs on the Rock Harbor beach. I could fly fish the Boquet and Ausable Rivers in the afternoon while Tasha snoozed on the bank. We could join Essex Farm, the local CSA, supporting a local startup while eating healthy, locally grown and raised food. I could grow my own vegetable garden, an herb garden, an orchard. Susan could work for an architecture firm in Burlington and volunteer at the animal shelter. We could buy season passes to Whiteface and downhill ski several days a week. We could cross country ski and snowshoe and bike and rollerblade and kayak and canoe and hike, and maybe I would start rock climbing again. And how much more smoothly the Lapine House renovation would be if we were on-site every day answering questions, catching mistakes before it was too late.

“I could interview candidates for Hamilton!” Susan said. She had recently become an alumni trustee for her alma mater, and her already high enthusiasm had skyrocketed. She had become a walking-talking billboard for the college. “You know how much more valuable it would be to interview candidates up here? There are tons of alumni interviewers in Manhattan, but in Westport? In Essex? In Elizabethtown?”

Suspended in lukewarm bathwater, our collective brainstorm leap frogging forward, it all started to make a strange sort of sense, to seem almost logical.

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Re-roofing and Flood Proofing

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Rosslyn boathouse when re-roofing was 50% complete in the summer of 2010

Rosslyn boathouse when re-roofing was 50% complete in the summer of 2010

Last summer (June-July 2010) our biggest concern with Rosslyn’s boathouse was restoring the roof. It’s hard to imagine that a year later our biggest concern is saving the building, pier and waterfront from finally-receding-but-increasingly-rough Lake Champlain flood waters! What better way to distract our anxieties than to look back on drier times?

The cedar shingle was suffering from many years of neglect. Covered with moss and rotted completely through in many areas, it was possible to watch clouds passing overhead (and fireworks) by standing in the second story and looking through the rot spots in the roof! Friend and former neighbor Michael Leslie headed up the project of stripping the expired shingles, rebuilding the rotted beams, sub-roof and related trim including the window overlooking the lake. The following comes from a blog post last July as we rounded the halfway mark.

The hardest part of re-shingling Rosslyn dock house is now behind us. Special thanks to Michael Leslie, Jerry Spooner and Jim Spooner for their progress so far.

In a bizarre twist, David Hislop asked me yesterday, “What’s the story with the dock house?” Hmmm… The story? Well, that’s what I’m writing: Rosslyn Redux. Coming soon to a digital download near you. 😉 Turns out he was referring to the roof. “People are asking why you’re re-roofing it AGAIN.” Again? Apparently a half dozen people have asked him this question. Easy answer. We’re not. It hasn’t been re-shingled since the early/mid 1980’s, but after a quarter century of rain, snow, ice, sun and wind, many of the shingles have rotted through and the roof is leaking, especially the southern exposure. We’d known that we would eventually have to strip the old shingles, but we had delayed as long as practical. Let’s hope the new roof lasts as long as the old one!

Although the re-roofing project took considerably longer than anticipated (this formula has become the rule rather than the exception during the process of renovating Rosslyn), it was worth every second when the beautiful work was complete. And doubly so last winter when snowstorms battered the little structure and again this spring when rain lashed at the roof. For the first time since buying this property in the summer of 2006 my bride and I could stop worrying about the boathouse that seduced us half a decade ago! The foundation had been restored. The structure had been restored. And now the roof had been restored. Life was good…

Perhaps we were too pleased? Perhaps hubris slipped into our homeowner psyche’s? Perhaps. Or perhaps nature’s far more powerful and far more fickle and unpredictable than we can possibly imagine. I’ve commented elsewhere that nature is a formidable foe and a loyal friend. I genuinely believe this, and yet this spring has reminded me that a boathouse built on a pier in the waters of a lake is not natural. It is a valuable architectural artifact. It is an indulgence. But it is not natural. And despite my resolve to balance my lifestyle with healthy stewardship of the natural environment, I never before stopped to contemplate how unnatural this structure really is. Although I’d likely discourage construction of a new albeit similar structure in fragile habitat like Lake Champlain, I never once stopped to consider Rosslyn’s beautiful boathouse a violation of nature because it already existed. It’s part of the architectural heritage of Essex, NY. In fact, we felt a responsibility to restore the boathouse. Indeed I still do, despite my newfound recognition that it contradicts my conventional bias.

Life is complex, and contradictions are everywhere. I don’t pretend to know all the right answers, nor even very many of them. But I’m beginning to suspect that the silver lining of Lake Champlain’s destructive flooding this spring is that I’ve been forced me to recognize and grapple with the contradiction in preserving Rosslyn’s boathouse despite the potentially adverse environmental impact. It has reminded me that conviction is handy but not infallible, that conviction must be balanced with questioning and humility.

So, I’m finally flood proofing my optimism! I’m still soggy and still anxious about the waves rolling through the interior of the boathouse and crashing against the rapidly eroding bank supporting Route 22, but I’m beginning to see that the glass is half full after all. And Lake Champlain? It’s still overfull!

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