West Shokan, Ulster County, New York state.
A small farm house on a mountain road bought 30 years ago in the Ashokan Catskills by friends. It was sold in the autumn of 2015.
“Take an exit off Route 28 onto the 28A,” they told me. “Climb up and when you come to an apple orchard with a low stone wall, follow its curve. You will enter woodland. Climb a little more and then you will see the house.”
A boy, now man, was raised there in part. We visited year after year. We all slept very well there. The doors and windows are still left open in this part of the country in summer and autumn. We played croquet there and gathered plants and berries to flavor brandy and vodka.
Below is the Ashokan Reservoir. Very near on the magically named Whispell Road is the last of the woodsmen in this part of the Catskills: a man who turned 81 in 2015 and lives by harvesting maple sap and selling maple syrup. He sells honey also; and deer hides to the leather industry.
This is a farm house whose core was built in the early 19th century for farming the hardscrabble, sloping land all around. The basement is thick stone. There have been additions such that there are unexpected angles and corners and roof levels. Mirrors in the house expand the light and multiply the angles. The windows vary in size and are fitted with their own particular summer screens and winter glass panes.
The domain of the Marble Lady is the flower and vegetable garden which is enclosed in mesh against deer. The garden is all around, backed by woodland sloping upwards to high mountains.
A wonderful place. Like the mirrored light in the house, the beauty and quiet of this little farm house, its garden and the unstinting generosity of my friends have expanded into my life for almost a quarter century.