City to the country

Posted 12/4/19

Into the wild

A few days after settling into our new second home in the Catskills, we were walking on the river nearby when a massive eagle dipped its claws into the river with a splash, rising to …

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City to the country


Into the wild

A few days after settling into our new second home in the Catskills, we were walking on the river nearby when a massive eagle dipped its claws into the river with a splash, rising to reveal a massive trout in its grip. This was to be a real adventure in the wild.

A bend in the road

Our weekly journey to our new weekend home was two hours from NYC. We were looking forward to a winter weekend away as we neared our exit on 17, traveling at about 55 miles per hour onto what is a very short off-ramp. The road appeared to be covered in snow, but we learned that it was ice. The anti-lock brakes on our Subaru were not enough. Nearing the stop sign, I attempted to follow the bend of the road—the alternative was a wall of trees. The car responded with three swift jumps to the side before coming to an abrupt stop. We shook it off before proceeding slowly down the final mile to our new home.

Sure come on over

Our first full week at our second home it rained for three days without a break—the first of three 50-year floods in just three years. I ran to Monticello to purchase a sump pump for the flooding basement. By the time I returned, the river was covering half of the only road to our house, and I almost did not get in. That night, houses across the river from us were being evacuated. Two of the residents whom we had not met called asking if they could come sleep over, as our house is perched 100 feet up on a cliff. That night, four adults and four dogs walked across the bridge, our first overnight guests—no light nor heat. Welcome to our new home!

Refinishing dreams

Before moving into our house, I had collected eight chairs from the street of NYC and spent weeks refinishing them. I also dreamed up stages of the renovation—a grand scheme of things. Some of those decisions were good—ripping up the shag carpeting, throwing out the filthy couches, removing the old venetian blinds—but most of my plans and found chairs just did not fit in as I had thought they would.

Well, not exactly

Over drinks at a local bar, a young man from Brooklyn, NY was enthusiastically describing to me the land he had purchased with some friends and the communal-like cabins they were building. My tutorial tendencies jumped in as I suggested that they take some time to get to know the area before committing to much. “Listen to the place, the setting, what is going on around the property,” I said, sharing with him how it had taken me five years to figure out which trees were better for making stick fences—the wood needs to be dense to last more than a year without rotting. He promptly replied that they were doing just that. “We had made these great trails on the acreage, but then realized that it would be nice to first put in electrical access to all parts of the trail for lighting at night.” At this point I did not suggest solar trail lights or a flashlight, although I wanted to.

May your dreams come true

A weekend home owner told me years ago that our area of the Catskills was where people came to “watch their dreams die.” Although I found the saying to be a little harsh, I understood well what he was saying having seen shops, galleries, hotels and restaurants open and then close within a short time. I had also watched a number of establishments bend and move, adapting with what they observed and learned to arrive at a place that fulfilled all of their goals, though maybe just a little differently. Observing this, I realized that generally things in life reveal themselves if we are patient—watching, and listening. After all, that is what the human attraction to nature is all about, isn’t it?

To listen, to wait.

Welcome to the Catskills!

Rodney Harder and his partner Tony Gray have had a second home in Cooks Falls since 2004.  Rodney is an artist with studios in Cooks Falls and the Garment District NYC. He teaches art at Collegiate School, and is a avid collector of works by self-taught artists, as well as that of the developmentally challenged or disabled.  His own work can be seen on his site


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