Jim and Linda Cunningham moved to these 21 acres of Westfield woods in the foothills of Jay Peak with our five children in 1994. We built a large house, a small barn, a sauna and some sheds. As we home-schooled our children we also developed a modest farmstead with a Jersey milking cow, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens (layers and broilers), turkeys, guinea hens, border collie mutt and cat. We chose this spot because of its privacy and proximity to two "institutions" important to us: 1) A cloistered Benedictine Monastery 2.5 miles away where we attend liturgical services in Latin (beautiful Gregorian Chant) and 2) our favorite beach at the southwest cove on Lake Willoughby (45 minutes) which has enjoyed a family-oriented, clothing-optional tradition for as long as anyone can remember. Thus this location helped us live close to nature and its Author.
Today, all the children and all the animals (except Casanova, the rooster, and 10 layers) have "flown the coop." Our little barn became a bunkhouse (sleeping 18) and Jim's office and storeroom. In 2005, realizing the house was too big for just the two of us, we leased it to a Connecticut family and renovated the barn/bunkhouse to be our own cottage home. We have now decided to rent it out to vacationers. We have moved back into the big house, and now also rent out the second floor to vacationers.
Jim is blind (through juvenile diabetes) and has had 2 kidney and a pancreas transplant (all successful). He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, having studied the Fathers of the Church (Patristics), Russian, Latin and Greek. He has been a house painter, headmaster, guidance counselor, high school teacher, offset printer, editor, publisher and writer.
Linda is a graduate of Paier Art School in Hamden, Connecticut. Besides home-birthing and rearing five children, she is the illustrator of children's books and photo editor and layout artist for Jim.
In 1973 both of us separately experienced a powerful "reversion" to Catholicism. Our spirituality is most important to us.
Most vacation places are loud, busy and un-spiritual. Here, however, we respect quiet, simplicity, love of nature and prayerfulness. Although all are welcome to enjoy our vacation rental, it is most ideally suited for those who crave quiet and profound respect for all of nature--including our own bodies and souls.
Carmel Cottage is set apart from the big house by a stone's throw. We are near enough to loan a cup of sugar and insure that your wood-stove lives up to our “cozy cottage” claim. If you would rather not trouble with wood, you can simply use the propane heat, setting the thermostat to your own comfort level.
The 2nd storey bedroom is at the south end of the cottage with a balcony/deck right off from it. You can lie in bed and star-gaze through the large windows as you drift off to sleep, listening to the babbling brook in the back yard. The balcony is big enough to accommodate a couple of chaise-lounges. Bugs have rarely been a nuisance here. Whereas some places are unpleasantly infested with mosquitoes, etc., we have been able to enjoy the sunshine here with hardly any insects to annoy us.
Our road (Carmel Rd) is a private, right-of-way leading west from Route 100 across from Degre Auction House. As you drive up from Route 100, you pass through a post and beam gate, after which you see on the right two buildings--Carmel Cottage (#260) with its gambrel roof and our big house (#258). There are various vegetable and flower gardens all around. A year-round brook runs through the back yard. It is only deep enough to wade in or to splash in between sauna sweats (though there's nothing like rolling in the snow naked in the Scandinavian/Russian tradition.)
Carmel Cottage is just a quarter mile up Carmel Rd. The private road continues beyond us, crossing two brooks and dead-ending in the woods about a mile beyond us. A quarter mile beyond us is Lady Slipper Lodge, which we built while the children were growing up, when we owned almost all the land to the end of the road. Beside the lodge we built a 50' heated lap pool and volleyball court. We have since sold that land and the new owner has allowed those improvements to deteriorate. We are the only year-round residence on the entire road.
Swimming holes abound in this area, each one having its own, unique character. Of the numerous swimming holes in Vermont, in 1996 Jim published a photographic guide to the ones where folks still skinny-dip like in the old days. The 100-page book is entitled Vermont Unveiled. Copies are available from Jim for $20 postpaid.
Nearby Lake Memphremagog is an international waterway leading north from Newport to Magog, Quebec. Half way up on the west side is the magnificent, European-looking Benedictine monastery of St. Benoit du Lac.
Many lakes in the Northeast Kingdom are crystal clear and as pristine as when the Abenakis roamed this area without competition from Europeans. Lake Willoughby is special in many ways, not least because it is the deepest lake in New England, a glacier having cut Mt. Hor (west) and Mt. Pisgah (east) in half, leaving this awesome, 5-mile long, fiord-like lake behind. If you visit Willoughby, be sure to stop off at the general store half way down on Route 5A and see the photos of the massive trout and salmon that have been caught here.
But perhaps most awesome of all is the beach at the southwest cove which faces the cliffs of Mt. Pisgah. The purity of nature is so tangible here, from the calls of the loons, the soaring peregrine falcons, the view 5 miles up to the north end of the lake, the sheer cliffs where rock slides have been witnessed, and the utter cleanliness of the beach as its naturist users keep it meticulously clean, that hundreds (if not thousands) of visitors from all over the world have found themselves unable to merely passively look at it from behind the fabric fences of their swimsuits and, hearing the irresistible call of the Muses, they have accepted their own natural beauty and goodness, removing their swimsuits and assuming their own rightful place in the awesome scape. (Bet you can tell I love that place!)
And if you are the type who appreciates the sight of all nature except human nature, then there are two other public beaches to choose from, at the extreme north and south ends of the lake.
In 2012 we renovated the 3rd level of our home to become our 2nd vacation rental, Carmel Loft.
We cordially invite you to vacation at Carmel Cottage or Loft sometime this year and we will do our best to make your stay comfortable.
N.B. While most vacation rentals and B and B's strive to be really swanky, we prefer to be clean, comfortable and simple--and affordable!