Saturday, July 18, 2009

a little piece of paradise

My husband and I are blessed to live on a very unique property. In essence it is almost like a private park - not created by us, but by our hard-working, stone-loving, eighty-four year old neighbor. From chats with him, his wife and two of his six sons, here is what I have pieced together about this site:

He must have bought acres and acres of land here on the Richelieu River years ago. (The Richelieu River drains out of Lake Champlain in Vermont and N.Y.State, into the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.) Some of it was orchard (this area is renowned for its apples), some of it just hills leading down from the mountain to the river. While he had a prospering business, he, as you will see, is one incredible stone mason. He has built retaining walls all over these hills, as well as stairways, bridges, gates, an obelisk, and even a pyramid - yes a pyramid! I have to ask him if he is a closet Egyptologist!! (Sorry I don't have pictures of the pyramid, but it is about 15 feet high and architecturally perfect, to my eye.) He also built stone walls to encase the brooke that runs through the property. Of course, apart from all the stonework, he landscaped these hills into a woodland garden - parts left quite natural and other parts deftly manicured.

As his sons came of age he apportionned them chunks of land on which to build their homes. The youngest son received a beautiful acre smack-dab in the middle of his father's manicured, "stoned" paradise. A piece of land held onto I'm sure by the parents because of its central and beautiful location. Whether persuaded by a second wife, or because of a family dispute, or whatever . . . this son decided to sell his acre. We were the fortunate recipients of this unfathomable decision. It was a little bizarre to notice that we occasionally felt "guilty" for buying the place - but if we hadn't snapped it up, the son would have sold it to someone else.

So here we sit in the middle of these acres of paradise - book-ended by the homes of father and a couple of other sons. They have been very welcoming, despite the shock, (we assume) of having non-family members plopped down in the middle of "their" land. Our homes are quite far apart, so there is a lot of privacy for all. We have done our best to keep the land in the style of his original design and there are no fences separating one person's land from the other's. It is so beautiful here (for which we take no credit - except for current maintenance of our part) we have people who come just to stand on the bridge below and enjoy the view. Some people think it is a public park and take a stroll to enjoy the gardens, brooke, several bridges, etc. Wedding parties have even asked to be able to take their wedding photographs here. BTW, our neighbour employs no gardners and still maintains his acres of park, and sometimes his sons' acres by himself. He is out there working on the land every day. He's a "John Deere" man. I have seen him hoist huge slabs of stone from his pick-up truck, using a steel bar and his knowledge of leverage, to the ground!

We often call our little spot here "Camelot" because " . . . there's no better place for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot. . . . ." We also call it "Come-a-Lot" because our kids come out to visit all the time - that was part of our plan. : )
So let's start on a little tour:

When our 84 yr. old neighbour gave one of his older sons property across the brooke, he had to build a road and a bridge to allow vehicles to cross. I believe he constructed this bridge when he was in his seventies. His wife also indicated he did it in late fall or perhaps early spring with the weather being so bad he had to construct plastic tent-like coverings in order to work. The photo here is looking out from our house to the street. The sides of the bridge have big, graduated ledges going down to the brook, where children of all ages love to walk and sit. Foliage here covers almost the bottom half of the bridge - it extends down much further than you can see.

Below you see one of the many stairways on this hilly, terraced property. The brooke in this other shot is fast and angry after heavy rains. Note the stone walls that hold the brooke. All built by this one man. An incredible feat.

I think his stonework became a bit of an obsession. The obelisk was built after he had completed all the retaining walls and decorative stone elements in these acres of parkland. He has Egyptian hieroglypics on it - and I have never been able to ascertain whether they reference him or not. Perhaps it is his designated burial spot. It certainly seems he wants to leave his mark. And he has.

Stone walls keep the soil on the hills from washing away due to rains and create the pleasing structural elements of this property - apart from the statuesque trees which often appear as sculpture to me.
Barely visible is a green deck called a "belvedere". It sits looking out over land and the brooke a short distance from the house. I was told belvederes were built originally for young courting couples to have a degree of privacy while dating, but still be within view of parental eyes.

This is one of the few rolling (almost flat) areas on the property. Hence no stone walls.
Our part of the property ends about where you see the deciduous trees, several yards past the flower bed. Rabbits and ground hogs often come out here to graze - 4:30 p.m. prompt for rabbits and their babies.

This free-standing stone archway, gate and meandering stone path were some of the more recent examples of his work. An English style sculpted garden (not visible) graces both sides of the path.
More terraced land.
More stone retaining walls.

This grassy path leads down to one of our patios by the brooke.

This patio is one of the few areas we had built - retaining the look already created here. It is a sweet spot where the brooke curves on it's way down to spill into the Richelieu River. It is always 5-10 degrees cooler down on this patio - due to the dappled shade and the evaporation of cool water from the brooke. A lovely spot to meditate, read, rest or chat with a loved one. Our stone-loving neighbor monitored the construction from a polite distance and warmly gave a "thumbs up" to this addition to "his park". He and his wife can see it, if they crane their necks, from one of their decks.
And so our abbreviated tour is over, and we are back at the stone street bridge. Hope you enjoyed yourself. I have a few little stories to tell you about happenings here in Camelot/Come-a-lot, but that is for future posts. I wanted first to acquaint you with the lay of the land so that you would better understand the stories to come. Au revoir!


  1. How beautiful! I can't imagine living in such beautiful surroundings. It would be such a joy to come home to everyday.

  2. Cathy:

    I still can't believe it either! Every day I get up and walk to the window in awe and amazement. When our neighbor passes, I bow in gratitude - well, not really but I have had that impulse. However, I did not want to embarrass my husband so I restrained myself.

  3. That's really amazing! and beautiful. I hope to do a lot of stonework on my property as well. If I could just do half as well as that I'd be ecstatic!

  4. Oh how beautiful Bonnie. That was such a lovely little rest for me; to come to your Camelot.

    While looking at the pictures I felt such a love for the elderly neighbour.

    Bonnie, thank you so much for your kind words and if love can make my mother and nephew better well, then they will be better in no time.

    Thank you dear friend.

    Love Renee xoxo

  5. How incredible! You must have incurred grace somewhere to be able to live in such a beautiful place. I bow from here to the man who built it! Thanks so much for the guided tour.

  6. Bonnie, how fortunate you were to find such an incredibly beautiful plot! And what a fascinating man to achieve all of that and the stonework! How lovely and thank you for sharing.

  7. Hello Bonnie

    Thank you for this guided tour of your garden of Eden. How lucky you are to be the guardians of this little plot of paradise and to be the recipients of such wonderful major rock works and structures. I can feel the love your neighbour has for his land and creative efforts, and your care over the property now.

    I imagine your winters are cold, do you get much snow?

    Happy days

  8. How beautiful! I am envious! Looks like heaven on earth..

  9. edifice rex:

    Thank you for dropping by and coming on the tour. If you do stonework too - I bow to you!


    I'm happy if you found a little rest from your very serious concerns, here today. Love and light to you, your mother and your nephew.


    Thanks for visiting! Come back soon.


    Would love to think it was because of grace, but I think it is just timing, circumstance and a little bit of luck. Thanks for checking in and sharing your thoughts. Cheers!


    Yes, I love how you describe it as guardianship as opposed to ownership. I, too, am ever aware of time, energy and love that has been cultivated on these grounds. Yes, we do get a LOT of snow - and it is beautiful here then. I will post pics. Cheers!

    luksky: Thank you for dropping by and leaving your comment. Much appreciated. Cheers!

  10. bonnie, this is absolutely stunning, amazing, and beautiful. you are so very fortunate but then i think goodness finds goodness. when i started to read your story i was thinking "please, please show pictures" and sure enough you did and they are incredible!!! wow!!! i especially love the brooke. how beautiful!!! have a peaceful day. steven

  11. Steven:

    Thank you - I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I really can't claim credit for what you see - except for maintaining our section. Just wanted to share what one man's devotion (perhaps magnificent obsession) could accomplish. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Hope you will check back in for a couple of funny events that happened here, that also left me a little conflicted about the balance between my beliefs and actions. Now there's a teaser . . . :) Cheers!

  12. Oh what a slice of heaven!!! To be surrounded by such beauty...I feel "calm" and "serene" just looking at these photographs. That stone archway and the gate are incredible!!!

  13. What an absolutely stunning place. I knew you were near Montreal, but not where exactly, you've found yourself a little spot of paradise...

  14. I marvel how a place can greatly represent the people who inhabit it. Serene, elegant, joyfulness - your stamp is all over it. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to take a stroll through this bit of paradise.

  15. Sherry Lee:
    It does give off a serenity. I searched a long time to find it - within and without.

    Yes - paradise - and as I stroll through blogs from all over the world, it's evident that this planet is paradise. A paradise in jeopardy.

    here under the rainbow:
    You're too kind. Our neighbor did the work, and as Delwyn said, we are now the lucky guardians. Must say, when we found it we knew the "fit" was right. It kind of felt like it had been waiting for us, as long as we'd been searching for it. Come for a stroll with me anytime!

  16. breathtaking and serene...reminds me of are blessed!


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