On the Uniqueness of Place

Granite mine S Last weekend was my 10th anniversary with my husband.

That’s confusing. Let me rephrase. We started dating ten years ago, when I was sixteen. We celebrated by going to Vermont to relax and enjoy nature. We had a great time. But we didn’t really take any photos. In fact, the only photos we did take were on a tour of a granite mine we went on.

But we went canoeing in the river and woke up to a view of a mountain. We climbed trees and went ziplining. We drove on the back roads in the forest and looked out for moose. We saw a deer. It was so relaxing.

And yet, at the same time, it wasn’t what I expected. I thought we would go off into the mountains and the forest I would feel the way I felt when I was in college living in the Hudson Valley, where the land spoke to me any time I looked around. Where every view of a mountaintop or valley took my breath away.

Vermont was beautiful, with forests so thick you couldn’t see into them from the roads. With steep mountains that were close together and the land looked folded. Where the towns were so small and beautiful and the food was local and delicious. So delicious and wholesome that one of our meals literally left me feeling prayerful at the end.

But it wasn’t what I expected, and this land was not my own. On the way home, we ended up crossing the Hudson River and seeing the Catskills in the distance, and my heart skipped a beat. This was my home, not Vermont. But it surprised me that even though they are pretty close, geographically, these places are not the same. The mountains in the Catskills are taller and wider and piney-er. There, the land rushes out to greet me, as if it’s catching a glimpse of a long lost friend just as I am.

It didn’t help that it may be the last time I see those mountains. I’ll be moving even farther away from them soon, to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will have to learn the land anew. Philadelphia and I have not become close in my years here, especially compared with the longing I feel for Duchess County. Here I am religious in spite of the land and my connection to it rather than because of it. That land, the land that introduced me to the gods, is no other land in the world, and I fear that I will never again live anywhere I love as deeply as that land. I feel a loss for it, for my distance from it.

Any time I come back to Philadelphia from time away, I feel sad when I get back to the city limits. This city is so dirty and decaying and sad and natureless that I just don’t feel a connection here. I truly hope that my new home makes me feel more like the Catskills than this.

It is odd to me, that a twenty minute drive through that region had more impact on me than the entire vacation. But that’s what love does, isn’t it? It meets us when we least expect it, wraps us up in that feeling of connection, and leaves us feeling rather transformed.

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9 thoughts on “On the Uniqueness of Place

    • That is true. It definitely takes a while to learn the land anywhere.

      But I do think it’s interesting to notice how it’s easier in some places than others. I’ve lived in Philadelphia the same amount of time I lived in the Hudson Valley, and yet I feel half as connected here as I do there. I wonder what it is about different places and different people that makes it easier for some places and people.

  1. Over here in Asheville NC there is plenty of natureific things to do. Tons of good people and wholesome food. If you ever get the chanc, you should stop by 🙂

    • Yes, I hear great things about Asheville. In a lot of ways, I wish that was where we were moving. I like the mountains so much. But, Charlotte it is. I am impressed by how enthusiastically everyone in North Carolina talks about their state.

  2. it’s funny, I’m from western WI and I can definitely tell when I’m so far away in any direction from my home area! So far north is Girl Scout Camp country, so far south is getting towards the unglaciated area, so far west is the St. Croix and Mississippi… is the soil sandy? Is it oak and pine or a mix of maples and ash? and then there’s Minnesota, which is just close enough ecology-wise to seem like home… and then things get open and flat. What is up with *that* strange business?
    That being said, I do love to travel and I have family down in Asheville. It’s lovely. Get ready for rolling hills and clay soil, visit the sea if you can!
    Hugs. ^^

  3. I love that you love my home so much. I always tell others that we take it for granted, this place filled with beauty and such history! I am always grateful to come home from vacations. To just come….home.
    Dutchess County will always welcome you 🙂

  4. Pingback: Getting to Know New Land on my Bike | Flame in Bloom

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