My editor when I was Design Director for the Christian Science Monitor, the late Dick Cattani, took seriously the charge to manage the whole newspaper — not just the reportage and editing, not just the graphics and photography, not just the fonts and overall publication design — ALL of it, in concert. In today’s parlance, the “experience.”


His nickname for this — shared only with me — was “Blanc,” after the Mont Blanc pens, his favored writing instrument. To him, the Mont Blanc people were brilliantly successful at a style of trade dress that unvaryingly conveyed their quality, purpose, heritage — their brand. Every advertisement, piece of packaging, and the product itself hewed to this standard. Today, he certainly would agree that Apple and Starbucks, among other brands, are equally successful at establishing and maintaining that kind of consistency.

He wanted that for the Monitor. Which was like herding cats, and pretty much doomed to failure. But the exercise of defining our desired vision was always stimulating.

Which is where we’re at with the Troy property. Not that we have any thought of defining our overall experience as such — that is certainly an emergent phenomenon — but as we approach the turning point on many fronts between demolition and recreation we’re making many choices. No one choice may be decisive in terms of our “Blanc,” but as a whole we find ourselves grappling with important guiding principles.

How are we husbanding our financial resources? Our psychic (mental, emotional) resources, our physical health? Are we salvaging and reusing materials? Are we setting ourselves up to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining? And, are we building on networks and relationships? Are we doing and not just talking? Are there ways of breaking down monolithic tasks into manageable chunks (e.g., can we just make a bed for planting carrots, without having planned the whole garden)? Are we putting important things first, and eschewing busy work? Are we moving quickly enough back into our creative lives?

In every case, more data is better. In this, our dear friends and family, here and far-flung, play a vital role. I spent today (and Tuesday) with Marsh’s dad, and I told him today how much we value his participation. He looks and sees slightly differently than we do, asks incisive questions (“what were you planning to do about …?”), makes offbeat suggestions (“what if the porch became the kitchen?”) — all of which enlarges the foundation of our decision-making. It strengthens a decision, knowing that you’ve considered and rejected seven alternatives, not just one.

Gloria takes our pulse, sometimes overtly and sometimes subtly. She notes if we seem exhausted, or frazzled. There isn’t always the means to fix it, as busy and active as this house is, but she is so much a part of the “Troy House” team it’s almost invisible to us. Her futon, her kitchen, her home, her donuts and pizza and comfort foods…. These feed our decision process, which in turn is creating our “Blanc.”

Simple thanks will never be enough, for all of you. It will only do for you to come visit when we’re settled (if not before, but then you risk being put to work). Come visit and tell us what we’ve done. We won’t have a clue.


My father-in-law and I pulled down the last of the pine paneling in the corner where the inside staircase had been, and the insulation behind it.

The electrician came and installed the 30Amp outlet for the camper, which we may get this weekend, next week, or next weekend (still working out logistics).

We went to the general store for emergency nutrition (bacon-egg-croissant and coffee) then came back and walked about half the property. He had not been out on The Land since it was covered with snow. He was no more discouraged than we about the masses of trash and debris, and excited for all our possibilities.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask him to scrape squirrel poop with me, so we dug holes in the basement for the concrete piers needed for the Lally columns that will reinforce the new load-bearing beam there. We also put a few more turns on the jack — the beam has gained 5/16″ now, or a hair more.

I didn’t take pictures of the holes, but if you want to know what they look like, go out in dirt and dig a hole measuring 12″ square and 30″ deep. That’s what they look like.

Finally we took the replacement sample of water from the sillcock (the well pump has run a further 8-10 hours since the first sample which was still too chlorinated to be tested), and dropped it off with the lab ourselves on the way home. The lab is in Winslow, between Fairfield and Waterville, and we saw some countryside on our way that was new to me.

Maine is gorgeous.