Forty years ago, when he was a few years younger than I am on the day I write this, my dad (Tony) took a leap.
Inspired by his best friend Frank, Tony plunked down $5,000 to buy 7 acres of land on a hillside perched between Lake Champlain and Lake George in the Adirondack Park.
With recycled materials from an old chicken coop and $500 cash, he fashioned a cabin — a place, really — that would shape my life.
As a boy there were early Saturday morning drives alone with my dad, diner breakfasts, BB guns, knives, fire, freedom, and adventure. While he did his chores around the place, I explored the woods by myself. Looking back, raising kids of my own, I see how those 7 acres — “The Property” as my father dubbed it — molded so many parts of me, chiefly the bond between my father and me.
Though the decades, always without electricity or running water, The Property has remained my touchstone — the place where I could always return. The place with so many great memories. The place where I could always go to unwind, leave the world behind, and just be a creature for a while.
Hundreds of my friends have experienced the magic of The Property, they tell me how the place has impacted them and sharing the place and certainly being able to share such a special environment remains among my father’s greatest gifts to me.
I’ve shared more laughter (and beer) around the fire pit and wood stove at the Property than any place on earth. Occasionally, one of my longtime friends who knew my dad will feel the same inspiration and lead a toast to his legacy, and in those moments, I can feel his spirit. He may not be here to share a beer, but he is certainly not dead.
The word used to leave me cold. When my wife was due with our first child, a friend and I were talking as to whether it would be a boy or girl. I said, I didn’t care of course, but he, a father to a son, wasn’t quite buying it.
“Don’t you care about your legacy? Don’t you care about your name being passed on?” he asked.
I did not care about that sort of legacy, I told him.
And I still don’t.
In fact, it’s not only after having children and creeping closer to 50 years old that thoughts of “legacy” began to pop into my head. (Certainly, seeing my children run around the lawn at The Property, squealing with delight, drinking mini-seltzers, and incinerating marshmallows got me thinking as well.)
Now, I really don’t think my dad bought that land and built that cabin thinking ahead to leave some legacy for his kids.
He did it for himself. He did it to fulfill HIS dream. He did it to fulfill HIS vision. How he delighted in taking his friends up there. A teacher, most years he would host a end of the year gathering for his colleagues, and I could seem him basking in his creation as they fell in love with the place over a whiskey sour on the deck, taking in the mountain view over to Vermont.
And so when you are there, if you allow yourself to feel into the DNA of your surroundings, you connect to the energy the magic of a dream realized.
That’s REAL legacy of the place.
Now, I have a story of my own dream realized to share. But in sitting down to write this story, only then could I trace its beginnings back to my father and the big leap he made in going for his dream 40 years ago.
During his lifetime, he never offered me any fatherly advice about going for my dreams or anything like that. That’s not how we related.
Certainly, I didn’t realize it at the time (I was about the same age that my son is today — 6), but now I understand that as a boy when my father said YES to his desire, bought the place, and rallied his friends to help him build a cabin, I could feel what it felt like for a man to go for what he wanted.
For me, to have felt that at an early age, that’s my father’s true legacy to me.
For that, Pop, I thank you. I intend to pass along the gift of your courage to allow yourself to have something you really wanted.
* * *
The instant I drank in the view, I wanted the property.
Most anyone would who appreciates a vista would, of course, as the view is simply spectacular.
Thinking about it, saying I wanted the property isn’t quite right. Rather, upon taking in the view, I felt as though the property WAS mine.
My deed, however, said something else.
I owned nearly 10 acres below this property, and while we enjoy a remarkable east to southwest view from my home, it was not THIS view.
This view lay just a couple hundred yards from my border and came with a house and 23 acres of land. When I first moved to my home 12 years ago, I hiked to the top of my property and saw the owners of The View in their driveway. I had my dogs with me, I wasn’t in the mood to chat, so I just gave them a wave with the intention to introduce myself another day.
I never saw them again.
For the last decade, I’ve treated the View as my own. There was simply no one else around to tell me otherwise. The highlight of my property is a 20 feet steel observation deck on top of our hill. I take all new guests to “the tower” to show the place off. But no tour was ever complete without taking my guests just to the other side of the hill to The View.
“Wait ‘till you see this…,” I’d say as we began our trespass to my neighbors’ unoccupied, quiet land.
A For Sale sign found its way to the lawn soon after. Few people besides me would ever see it, because the house and View sit at the top of a tall hill, accessed only by an obscure right-of-way, BatCave sort of entrance. In short, if you weren’t looking for it, you would not find it.
And for many years, no one found it.
Of course, the moment the place hit the market, I had dreams of buying the property. But I didn’t really much use for a second house. And I really did not have the funds to meet the asking price (it was more than 3 times what I paid for my home).
Through the years, I would try to sell my visiting friends and relatives on buying the place and becoming my neighbor — at least then I would always have access to the view before some monied foreigner from Jersey or Connecticut snapped it up and plastered the trees with bright POSTED signs.
Eventually the For Sale sign got crushed by a snow plow, buried behind a towering spruce tree. No one replaced it. Every few months I’d look up the property online to see if someone had bought it, but it was always sitting there, the listing never updated.
After the economic crash in 2008, the asking price lowered to nearly half of what it was a few years earlier. The place now seemed like a bargain to me… The View almost within reach if I got super-creative.
“I could split the 23 acres into 5 acre lots and sell them off! Who knows, maybe I could make money in real estate because once people see this view, they are going to want it,” I’d tell myself. I shared my thoughts with some local contractors and people who knew how to do such things much better than I, but nothing came of it other than me continuing to blow on the white coals of my desire and keeping it warm.
Every now and again my wife and I would bat around ideas of how we could turn this into a “retreat center” for our businesses and host live events. But really, we were just dreaming. The house was showing sign of neglect and it all feel like too much to take on.
There was no path that I could conjure, no plan I could come up with to solve my “problem” of The View.
So I stopped trying to solve it.
Instead, I just enjoyed it every time I’d make the trek up the hill. And I still showed it to all my guests as if it were mine.
Conversing with my neighbors who always have their ears to the ground in terms of local gossip, I’d hear about a series of offers on the house, all of which would eventually fall through for one reason or another. While these failed deals quietly pleased me, they also allowed me to let go.
I knew the property was going to sell and I acclimated myself to this idea.
I found myself hoping that my new neighbor was someone cool — you can never have enough friends when you live in the country…
And hopefully the new owners wouldn’t mind me crossing their property to admire the view on my cross country skis or to continue sharing the vista with friends when they’d visit.
On one of our family walks, we strolled over to a neighbor to let the kids raid their berry crop. Al, the patriarch, had grown up in the area and knows everything about everyone.
“The property up top sold, you know?” he said.
I did not know, I told him, feeling somewhat surprised that the news did not sting more.
Al went on to fill me in on the backstory, and that the newly retired couple in their mid-60’s would be moving in July 4th weekend.
I met the new buyer, Rich, as I was mowing my lawn at the intersection of our properties at the top of the hill.
Our conversation was cordial, but we felt each other out as we discussed where our property boundaries were and the right-of-way we now shared.
I asked him about his decision to move to the area, and predictably, he cited the view from his new home.
Pointing to the neighboring field, I agreed with him.
“I’ve always said that your new view over there is the simply the best in the area.”
“Oh, yes,” he answered, his tone shifting.
“Well, ah… we didn’t buy those three acres. Not now, anyway. We’ll probably buy them later,” he said.
Rich kept speaking for a few more minutes, but I did not hear a word he said.
Did he say that The View is a separate plot of land?
Did he say that he didn’t buy it?
I shook his hand and pointed my lawn tractor down the hill to our house. I ran inside and flew to my computer.
Accessing the county tax map, sure enough, The View lay on a separate 3 acre plot of land. I’d never realized this before because the seller only offered both plots as a package.
Apparently, because the house was on the market so long, the sellers chose to take the bird in hand and close on the bigger deal of the home and 20 acres, and offer the other 3 acres – The View – separately.
My whole body vibrated. Hummed, really. Tingles shot up and down my spine just like when I hear a song I love. At my core, I knew exactly what was unfolding before me.
And it was glorious.
Before I could think about anything, I Googled the real estate agent who sold the home to Rich and introduced myself. I asked about the 3 acres and he said, yes, it would be going on the market shortly. He even agreed to give me the first shot at it.
More tingles. More knowing.
From my office, I ran upstairs and told my wife that the property was available.
“Can you believe it?” I said.
And yes, she could believe it. She was happy for me of course — mostly because I was so excited, but her enthusiasm didn’t touch mine.
After all, this was MY dream. Not hers. She loved The View too, of course. But quite simply, this property was connected to my DNA in ways that went beyond the aesthetics.
I had no idea what the asking price would be, but I came up with a few educated guesses and put my calculator to work. I could find a way to make this work, I thought.
From that moment on, I told everyone I knew (who I thought might “get it”) the story of The View being on the market and how things felt like they were lining up for me.
A few people looked at me blankly and politely nodded, unable to connect to the feeling I offered in the telling of the story. I didn’t really care though, because every time I told the story, I just felt more momentum.
And indeed, in my closest friends, and the people brave enough to still be chasing dreams of their own, I could see my enthusiasm reflected back in their eyes. “It’s going to be yours,” they would say. (For the record, this led me to fall more deeply in love with my dream, and more deeply in love with my people who basked in my dream with me. Thank you, you know who you are.)
My friend Chris and I had just shed our bags in our Toronto hotel room for a concert when my phone rang. I recognized the number from Bob the realtor and I knew he’d be contacting me to relay the asking price for The View.
Too nervous, I let the call go. A moment later my phone beeped with the voicemail.
Adrenaline pumping, I listened to the message. The polite voice informed me that the sellers were asking more than double the price of what I’d hoped for.
Fuuuuck. Now what?
I called Bob back and thanked him for giving me the first shot at the property. I told him of my surprise at the price, at which he replied, “Yes, but the view…”
I felt the place slipping away from me as I told him I would be in touch if I ever felt like I could make an offer.
“OK,” he said. “Just keep in mind a cash offer tends to go a long way…” and with those final words, I felt a sense of possibility again, a wink of an opening.
When I got home from my trip, I messaged my friend Ted – one of the people who “got” my dream right away, and as a general contractor, someone more versed in real estate transactions than myself.
Ted offered me a script and I used it. Via e-mail, I thanked the agent, conveyed that I was hoping to do a cash deal but the price was over my limit and to please let me know if the situation changed. On one hand I was playing the poker game, but at the same time I was being true to what felt right for me. I had to let the property “go” again.
The agent e-mailed me back encouraging me to make an offer.
I asked several people for advice, but really what I was doing was bouncing their ideas off myself to see where I really stood with things and what felt better to me,
I put in an offer — about 55% of the asking price, and received another high counter offer two days later.
Four days later (I had to force myself to wait), I upped my offer to what I wanted to pay. I framed my offer saying “this is all the chips I have to play with.”
It just happened to be my 47th birthday.
Three hours later my phone buzzed showing Bob’s number. I was already sweating from the heat of the day and my heart hammered with anticipation as I answered the call.
“Well, Drew… I presented your offer in your own words to the seller the she got back to me right away. They will accept your offer,” he said.
My first thought was I can’t believe it.
This was quickly followed by I knew it. I KNEW it.
Thirty minutes later I sat in Bob’s kitchen a mile down the road from me, and wrote the deposit check.
I floated through the rest of my birthday, the best one I can ever remember.
Before I went to bed I went out on my deck and soaked in the starlight.
“I did it. I did it. I did it,” I kept chanting to myself. I probably said this three dozen times, basking in the phrase. I raised a beer to the constellations in celebration.
All night, my body hummed like a tuning fork. I’ve never felt a sensation like it. I don’t think I slept more than an hour or so, but I was wide awake when the sun rose.
* * *
We closed on The View last week.
I got exactly what I wanted and at 5% of the original asking price.
Now, I share this story because I am really proud of what I created. Really fucking proud.
In fact, I am more proud of this creation than any other so far in my lifetime.
I’ve been a student of “conscious creation” or “law of attraction” or whatever you want to call it, for well, a lifetime I suppose… but really I’ve been at this for the last 16 years.
In fact, I’ve spent more time studying and teaching these principles than any other subject.
And with The View, I applied everything I’d learned over the years. As I like to say, “this stuff works.”
If you gave me the choice between handing me a winning lottery ticket for a million dollars or manifesting The View in the way I did, it would not be a contest.
The pleasure I’ve gotten from this experience is rooted in being the owner of The View, certainly, but right now the deeper satisfaction comes from the being part of this experience, seeing it all unfold outside of my strategies or plans.
I don’t want to say I feel “vindicated” because I’ve not spent too much time trying to win over doubters and certainly none of those people will even come across this story.
As someone who teaches that you can have, do, or be anything that you want (and as someone surrounded by evidence of this truth), I should admit that if I read the fine print of my own belief, there would have been a phrase tacked on. You can have, do or be anything you want (just don’t get too crazy).
The View has taught me that I can get as crazy as I want with my desires. The crazier the better.
So what’s the plan for The View?
Right now there is not one. (Neighbor Rich was relieved to hear this when I broke the news of my purchase.)
Maybe a cabin.
Maybe just a wood fired hot tub to watch the stars.
Maybe a yurt.
Maybe a custom home.
Maybe nothing other that quiet walks to enjoy my favorite view on the planet. The one I created for ME.
Who knows. Doesn’t matter.
At the very least, should my kids decide they don’t want to stay in the area, they will have a place to come back to visit. A place where they can share a magnificent view with their families and their friends, and bask in their parents’ presence long after they we leave here.
And maybe when they come to The View, they will feel the legacy of a dream realized.
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