This summer I’ve spent a good deal of time upstate in the Catskills where my boyfriend manages a 2,000-acre estate. (Two and a half times the size of Central Park!) This Gilded Age estate includes a once grand 20,000-sq-ft mansion and riding stables. Needless to say, it’s paradise for me, Nature Gal. The abundant wildlife (including bobcat and bear), fresh air, pure spring water and total lack of light pollution has me ‘blissed out in the boonies.’ I believe nature is our ultimate healer, which is the reason I incorporate all things natural into my design work. And I have never felt healthier or happier in my whole life than I have this summer, enveloped in this magical kingdom.
However, we are also very isolated on the mountain with so many acres around us, so Andy suggested we have a party where I could meet our community (and vice versa). The party, he said, could be an ‘Old Fashioned Pig Roast.’
It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea, being new to the meat-eating scene. (I was a strict vegetarian for almost 30 years, and only recently started incorporating sustainable, local, humanely raised meat into my diet). But I eventually agreed, since the event would help his caretaker’s new business venture (pig roasting), as well as support a local farm, and since, after all, this is the country.
I love parties, and since so many people had never seen this grand old estate, I figured my welcome-to-the-neighborhood soiree could also serve as its introduction. I found a fabulous online invite and gathered the names and emails of everyone I met. I bought a bolt of black and white checkered fabric for the 50’-long table (black sawhorses with heavy decking on top). Being the Green Designer I upcycled everything: Old metal feeding cans held utensils, giant old wood well covers doubled as tables, all the chairs were mismatched from around the estate — total farm charm. For a homegrown, romantic atmosphere, I gathered dozens of various candles, antique hurricane lanterns, votives, mini star lanterns and Tiki torches.
The party was a Big Country Deal and was all-the-buzz in our little ‘neck of the woods.’ We planned it to follow the town’s Community Day in order to continue the festivities on our property. It was also a full moon! After setting everything up, Andy and I got dressed, nervous and excited (and incredulous that the two of us has orchestrated this wonderful event). We had just begun greeting the first guests when a storm cloud gathered and sprinkled a few drops…
Although the forecast was cloudy with rain expected late that evening, Mother Nature had her own agenda. It started raining — a real, hard summer rain — just when everyone was arriving, the food already set out on the tables. And although everyone said it would pass, it seemed to rain harder with each passing minute. It was a disaster! I quickly traded my stylish shoes for black boots and everyone grabbed a dish to bring into a large empty room, the old gym of the derelict mansion. Luckily I had cleaned it just in case of rain!
The main table was too large and cumbersome to carry in, but we got a few other makeshift tables to fit through the door. People were asking me where to put everything — ice coolers, food, candles. It was now dark, so I paused, uncertain, answering “I don’t know, wherever you think best.” Since I had invited ‘the world,’ we had a very diverse group of folks: farmers, ‘flatlanders’ (city dwellers), locals, plain and fancy, all tossed together in one big, ugly room, dessert food next to dinner food, everything disorganized … and suddenly, everyone started mingling! I stood there — soggy, hair flat, with my rain boots on — and for some reason, I smiled, my control and perfection issues dissolving with the rain. Perhaps it was all of my yoga, or my Buddhist studies, or just all the curves life has thrown at me, but I was happy. It was heartwarming to see everyone chipping in to help, enjoying meeting new friends, thanking us for having them.
And then, it cleared with a magnificent double rainbow. We all went back outside to witness Andy’s firework display, along with his secret paper lanterns, which floated up into the sky and followed the wind currents to amazed “oohs” and “aahs.” The evening ended with an enormous bonfire, then the 200 or so guests dispersed into the lawns and fields after hugs, compliments, and offers to help clean up or take home excess food. It was a success after all! I felt welcomed into this warm and wonderful community.
I truly believe that home is in your heart. It’s not about the perfect sofa, table or lamp (a somewhat unique opinion for a designer). The most important ingredient in creating ‘home’ is love — for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, and our larger home, the planet. This evening was a powerful reminder of what I believe, that what we seek is always already there.
I am Home.
Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen