When life is overwhelming and you can’t get a grasp on your bearings, a trip to New York’s Hudson Valley will get you back on your path.
As it so happens, the demands in my own life have increasingly become more tiring. As a mother to a school-aged child, my son comes home with a new respiratory illness every other week. Work has been busy and deadlines approach far too quickly. As the year ends, holiday parties and family gatherings pull too much of my already-depleted energy. I am barely keeping my head above water.
But driving along the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley towards Gather Greene, my mind slowly ceases its murmurings. Tucked between the Catskills to the west and the Berkshires to the east, Gather Greene revolutionizes the term “nature heals.”
A perfect combination
Pulling up to the large, open-air pavilion reminds me of ancient architecture, akin to the Parthenon in Athens. Instead of crumbling ruins dedicated to the goddess Athena, I find two bubbly and welcoming faces tending a bonfire. The owners, Amna Ali and Jackie Brown, bring together the wilds of nature and the simplicity of Scandinavian architecture seamlessly. Their graduate degrees in interior design at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute have been put to good use here.
They discuss the idea behind Gather Greene and the Dutch concept of gezellig. The term loosely refers to the feeling when you gather with friends in a cozy environment. Brown says, “Gathering around fires, being together in these beautiful, natural spaces — there’s something joyful in these connections that’s almost primal.” I couldn’t agree more.
It’s the feeling I get when I’m camping in the backcountry with friends and haven’t showered in a few days. The same feeling I get when I make a cup of hot tea and sit down with a new book to read. It’s hard to put that feeling into words but, if I had to, I’d call it feeling like I was home.
That is exactly how I feel as I sit around the bonfire, chatting with the other guests and the hosts about what the weekend would bring. Laughter comes easily when folks are genuinely interested in your life. Conversation flows from where we live and what our interests are to our favorite books and biggest wishes. Darkness eventually fills the air around us as the bonfire wanes. I retire for the evening after my cheeks hurt from smiling and my heart full from conversation.
Overlooking the valley
I’m lucky enough to snag one of the cabins along the ridge that faces east over the valley. There are 17 nearly identical cabins that dot the ridge and the forest behind it, including a few pet-friendly ones and one with ADA accessibility.
My cabin is quaint and includes a plush queen-sized bed on one side and a modern bathroom on the other. There is even a small desk where I immediately set up my laptop in case inspiration strikes. The mini fridge is full of bottled water and some beers from a local brewery.
The real showstopper of the cabin, though, is the massive window next to the bed. It takes up the entire wall that faces east over the ridge and into the valley below. It’s the ideal sunrise-viewing spot and I suddenly ache to go to sleep so that sunrise will come that much quicker. There is a shade you can pull down if you’re not a morning person, but I have a feeling that staying at Gather Greene will make you one.
A place to unwind and create
Just as I suspected, the morning brings a spectacular sunrise. My eyes open to orange, pink, and purple hues while the lingering wood-burned scents still fill my nostrils from the prior night’s bonfire. The leaves have fallen off the tree as winter settles in, which gives an almost unobstructed view of the valley below. As a mother, I am always up well before the crack of dawn — it’s the only time I am truly alone. It isn’t hard for me to watch the sun crest over the rolling hills.
As the sun continues its ascent, I grab my laptop to write down my daily thoughts, a ritual I started a few years ago. For the first time I can remember, I’m not writing about the complexities of motherhood or the stress from my everyday life. Instead, I write about new story ideas, a character arc in the novel I’m writing, and a short poem. It is the first time, in a long time, that I can truly create.
That is what Amna and Jackie strive to provide at Gather Greene. “That feeling of gezellig is really what we want people to experience when they’re with us,” says Ali. “It’s not just about the design or the modern amenities, it’s about the choreography of an experience at Gather Greene. We put a lot of thought into this, and hope guests walk away inspired.”
On the weekends during its peak season, Gather Greene is used mostly as a wedding venue and a place for guests to commune and reminisce with new and old friends. It’s a place to celebrate. But during the week and its off-season (November until April), this place is ideal for those who need the physical and mental space to unwind and create.
Wait, there’s no mosquitoes?
The sun is now shining through the bare branches of the surrounding hardwoods and beckons me to make my way onto the grounds. Although there are plenty of nearby places to hike, there are over 100 acres of forest and grassland here. On top of the 17 cabins and open-air pavilion, there are also dozens of trails, an abandoned shale quarry (aptly named their “Moonscape”), and the Shale Pond perfect for after-party gatherings.
For me, it’s a great place to get some inspiration. The Moonscape might be the setting of my next fantasy novel, or listening to the birds in the trees might give me an idea for my next eco-tourism piece. Creativity is screaming from the treetops here and I want to lap it all up.
And then I learn from the owners that they don’t have mosquitos here. As a former ecologist, I am flabbergasted at this revelation. My response is, “So you’re saying I could write outdoors the entire day and not get bitten by endless little critters that are the bane of my existence?” Ali and Brown simply reply with a simultaneous, “Yup.”
Although the science is iffy on this, I’m still sold.
A culinary adventure
In case you still aren’t convinced to head to Gather Greene for your next holiday, then maybe this will do it – If you stay here, you’ll be near the quaint town of Hudson, where you can find all the restaurants, shops, and galleries you want.
A great dinner option is WM Farmer & Sons where you’ll be greeted with mood lighting and a bustling bar. The seasonal cocktail menu is chock full of eclectically named drinks like the Green Knight, Fortune’s Fool, Zebra, and Coronation. The food is even better with choices like roasted oyster mushrooms, smoked Berkshire pork shank, campanelle pasta, and ossobuco of monkfish.
Another dinner spot with a bit more flare is Little Deb’s Oasis. They call their cuisine “tropical comfort food” and describe their sensibilities as “hot, sticky, juicy, moist fever dreams of flavor.” I can personally attest that this is not only accurate but is exactly how I felt afterward in the best possible way. My belly was full from the food but even fuller from the experience. The vibrant décor and spirited servers make the dinners feel like a culinary adventure. I left feeling like I had run a marathon, high on adrenaline, but without the sore muscles.
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Grab lunch at Talbott & Arding which specializes in eclectic cheeses and deli meats. Hudson Valley is an epicenter for agriculture and the owners of Talbott & Arding are strong supporters of locavore dining. On top of the many different cheeses and deli meats, there are also dozens of sweet treats to choose from. Grab one to-go and take it with you as you head out shopping along the main street.
Dozens of shops
Food isn’t the only thing that Hudson has to offer. It also houses the Olana State Historic Site – a grandiose piece of architecture that sits atop a hill in the heart of the Hudson Valley. It was once home to Frederic Edwin Church, a well-known painter who pioneered the concepts of involving nature and architecture into one. His entire 250-acre estate is delicately designed with inspirations from the grounds that surround it.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of history and culture, you can head back to town and walk along Warren Street to shop. A stop into Flowerkraut is a must-do. Here you can stock up on all your floral and sauerkraut needs – yes, you read that right. Or you can head to The Spotty Dog Books & Ale where you can grab the latest fantasy fiction while drinking at the bar. You can also do some home shopping at FINCH Hudson, MINNA, or Red Chair.
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Then grab a coffee at MOTO Coffee Machine — yes, it’s a combination of coffee and motocross…somehow it works! Or head to Culture Cream for a true ice cream experience. Even if the temperatures are below zero, I suggest grabbing a scoop or two here. With flavors like Earl Grey Lavender, Raspberry Hibiscus, and Miso with Honey Roasted Strawberries, there is something for everyone.
A final note
It takes a lot for me to leave Gather Greene after a magical weekend. Alas, my family needs me back home. But I leave with a boatload of ideas for my next story and wait in anticipation for Amna and Jackie to open up creative residencies at their retreat…I’ll be the first one to apply.
Book a stay at Gather Green now and give yourself the break you need.
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