Feng-shui

What is it about High Valley that appeals to so many? Some say it's feng-shui. Look!

When people come over the hill by the big white house and first spy the lake, hills, trees and barn, they say: "Oh!" Or, "It's beautiful here." There is something about the lay of the land that evokes that response. We shrug and say, it's feng-shui. Literally translated from the Chinese, it means wind and water, but it is more: it is harmony between the natural and the built environment; High Valley seems to have that.

High Valley definitely has a character as a place. The people drawn to it are extremely varied, but there has been something about the place that has attracted people who resist formulaic thinking, who may be a little different from their fellows, who may feel that they don't "fit in." They fit in at High Valley; maybe it's the feng-shui See History of High Valley to see how this appears to be a constant of the place, at least since 1945 when Olga, Julian and Douglas first came here.

In a way, it's a small place. Julian first suggested we call it High Valley because, for Dutchess County it's fairly high, about 600 feet, but it's also a valley. It's no mountain valley; central Dutchess County is hilly and high compared to the towns along the Hudson River, or the small plains that you find in the less hilly portions. It was a broken-down farm, probably always marginal.

The farmer, who sold out in the late 1930's, apparently had a little of everything: apple orchards, pastures, cornfields, a wood lot, cows, pigs, chickens and horses. There are still remnants of the apple orchards, if you know where to look; the "lower barn" was for milk cows, the "meeting rooms" were horse stables. There was even a falling-down pig-sty and a fairly large chicken house. All that remains of the pig-sty is a large oblong entry stone; the chicken house was long ago attached to the carriage house and made into an apartment and office--with ceilings downstairs that are now too low to be used as anything but an art room or workshop.

The lake, which transforms the whole little valley, was Olga's idea; it's the first built lake in the whole area. Many followed, but in the beginning none of the local people thought it would work: "It won't hold water," they opined. Julian was skeptical, too, but Olga insisted. Actually, because of the abundance of clay, water stays almost anywhere in the town, in almost any hole you dig: a problem for builders who have to have adequate drainage for septic systems, but not a problem for builders of lakes. In any case, the lake looks as if it's always been there, until you realize that there is a rather large earth dam across one end, now planted with trees and expanded with yard fill. The woods across the lake were planted, originally, but have now grown wild. The planters were the kids at High Valley School, and Julian, Olga and Douglas. Some of the original planted trees are still there, but hardwoods are replacing the pines and cedar.

When Olga, Julian and Douglas arrived in 1945, the tenant farmer was plowing the westward hill above what is now the lake--right up and down the hill; he planted it in corn, but most of the soil had already washed away. All the cornfields have been long gone; they are all woods now.

But even then, back in 1945, there was something about the land: it had feng-shui even before the local (corrupt) town road superintendent built us a "fire pond" in a small part of what is now the pond. Now it has grown into its feng-shui.