9.26.2015

Counting My Blessings at a "Special" Place

We've all heard people talk about a "special place." One may call their grandmother's house, their beloved elementary school, a favorite summer camp, or any number of memorable locations a special place. Non-profit organizations remind supporters that their gift will help protect "this special place." As I think about special places in my life, I hope I can be more descriptive when I talk about and write about them. Yes, they are "special" but they are much more than that.
One such special place is my uncle's weekend home, dubbed the River House, near Shohola, PA. Although he has only had it since 2000 and I only visit once every year or two, it has captivated me. What makes it so special? Can I find a more eloquent and telling way to describe it? Let me try to find the words that do the River House justice.
The Little House
  • It's remote - The River House sits along the Delaware River at the point where Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey all come together.  I-80 is only about 30 minutes away in one direction and a passenger train from the city is about 30 minutes in the other direction. Given its proximity to a major metropolitan area, a large population lives within an easy day trip to the area. Despite all of this, the setting is surprisingly remote. The area is home to a number of full-time and part-time residences along the river and various lakes, and there are tourists milling about in the region, but it is not busy. The property is located at the end of a narrow lane it shares with two other houses. Cell phone coverage, once non-existent, is now spotty at best. My cousin Carolyn tells me that if you lean over the second floor balcony of the Big House and hold your cell phone just so, you might get one bar of reception. It continues to amaze me that such a place exists in the tri-state area.
  • The setting is beautiful - The Delaware River is wide and slow moving as it passes by the house. The property includes a long, sloping yard down to the river and a grove of trees just above the river provides a peaceful area to sit. Our portion of the river has it's own "beach." Really just a rocky flat area but there are few of those along this stretch of the river and we have one of them. This is very fortunate for us as it is a great place to hang out. An eagle's nest can been seen from out beach, and deer and the occasional bear wonder through our property. New York is on the other side of the river along a steep hillside with thick trees that add to the beauty while concealing the houses.
  • It's casual and cozy - The River House, which sits on three acres, is actually two houses.The
    The Big House
    house I call the Little House, sits closer to the river. It is one story and part of it used to be a chicken coop. A screened porch and adjacent deck offer unobstructed views of the river and provide the perfect place to enjoy coffee, meals and lounging. The Little House has several sitting areas and all are filled with books. 

    The Big House is just up the hill. It is a two-story farm house with its own screened porch, areas to lounge and abundance of books. The two bedrooms upstairs are cozy and the bigger of the two, called the Moose Room due to the stuffed moose head that overlooks the bed, has a balcony with a view of the river.

    Both houses are nicely decorated yet quite casual and comfortable. The sitting areas, books, beautiful views and tranquil setting  add to the ambiance. It would be a perfect place to spend a rainy weekend. Regardless of what the weather is doing, the River House is the place to unwind. When I am there, I feel like this is my time to just "be." I wish my scheduled allowed me time to visit more often.

    ~As a side note, the Little House is probably bigger than the Big House but the Big House, with two stories and its position up the hill, appears and feels bigger.
  • It is ours - Well, not really mine or even my family's. But it belongs to my mom's brother, my Uncle Fort, and that is close enough for me to feel as if it belongs to us.
    Walkway between the houses
  • If instills in me a sense of good fortune - How lucky is it to have such a beautiful place in our family? The River House is not extravagant but it is substantial. Three acres, two houses with a total of five bedrooms and four bathrooms, numerous decks, porches and patios, a fireplace and wood burning stove, stone walkways, a large garden, multiple flower beds and a micro-orchard, and the coveted stretch of river front.

    I'm always surprised how Americans (Maybe this happens across the world?) get caught up in quantity and forget what it means to be fortunate. Bigger, better and more of everything equals success to many. The highest income, the most expensive towns to live in, more and more square footage in the average home, a huge wardrobe of clothing for all seasons and occasions, a fleet of the newest outdoor gear, it never ends. It sometimes seems like the average American feels that if one is not Mitt Romney rich, then one has not been blessed with abundance and good fortune.

    The River House reminds me that this is far from the case. You don't have to have billions to have abundance in your life. The biggest and most expensive aren't necessarily the best or even necessary. The River House would not scream "rich" to many people but when I am there, at my uncle's weekend home, I feel like I have a lot. My family and I are blessed with abundance in many ways.
    Sitting area above our "beach"
  • It says family to me - This is where my family comes together for a majority of my visits back east. My uncle hosts his Cousins' Party each year with 20+ relatives getting together for an annual reunion. Not much is on the agenda for the day, just visiting and enjoying good food and conversation in a beautiful setting. Although I don't see my family often and sometimes feel we have little in common, they are my family and this is where we often spend time together.
The River House, I treasure it.
Scenes from the River House:
Phoebe, house watch dog
An interesting planter

The smile says it all
One of the flower beds