Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Reflections on Beauty + Such...
Sunset on the Susquehanna River in Bradford County, PA
There is a very thoughtful posting on my pal’s blog… several points spoke to me quite clearly – finding beauty where ever it may be; choosing to make the changes required to insure life-sustaining beauty/environment for oneself and ones family; the amount of land one lives on; and seeking the places of our ancestors.
I’ve learned over the years that beauty is nearly always “free.” Beauty seems available at any time, any place as long as I choose to see it. I find beauty in nature and small children most easily – which is not to say that either nature or children are always beautiful, of course! Beauty is in the smile on the face of another, the expression of dawning awareness as someone discovers something special, the delight of being with friends, the joy of a job well done, the look in my husband’s eyes as he sits across the dinner table – which is still there after 41 years of marriage.
For 16 years, we lived on the banks of the Susquehanna River in upstate Pennsylvania. I loved watching the sun rising over the mountains and reflect in the swiftly moving water. I loved the hoar frost that formed in the winter creating ice crystals that clung to the trees on the river’s edge, sparkling like stardust ever so briefly as the sun warmed the air around them. I loved the heron, ducks, raccoons, possums, toads/frogs/snakes/wounded birds the kids brought home, the song birds coming to my feeder, the friendliness of the neighborhood (despite forever being considered “outsiders”).
Choosing Life-Sustaining Options:
Then we were transferred to NJ – where oil refineries and the NJ turnpike were the only associations I had with the state prior to house hunting. We shocked our realtor by insisting we have large, old trees – known here as “mature trees” - and because we wanted to live next to or very close to “Green Acres,” areas set aside and protected from urban development. It was a long time before we found anything remotely suitable, let alone affordable. The difference in cost of living was astronomical, despite the abundance of everything.
But (much to my surprise) we found lots of beauty here – and we even found a home that backed to a park (not only once, but twice!) where wildlife wandered quietly and birds were plentiful. Yes, we paid more than we could really afford, the first time, at least. But we had the kids and grandkids moving in with us, so we needed a larger home. And I saw (and still see) red fox, deer (of course), coons, a river rat, brown rats, star-nose moles, voles, muskrats, heron, geese (of course), ducks of many varieties, possums, chipmunks, squirrels, and 40+ varieties of song and hunting birds. We still have frost (rarely), snow (rarely), and more sunshine than anywhere I’ve lived other than St. Paul. I may have to go a little further into the park to see many of these critters, but that’s OK with me. The red tail hawk comes around frequently – often hoping to feast on a mourning dove found beneath my feeder. And, yes, I find beauty in that, as well…
I've posted many photos of our current home and backyard - you can check past entries to see them, if you're curious.
As for the amount of land we live on... that seems to be a non-issue for me. We've had small lots and fairly large lots - our current home is on a very small plot of land. Perhaps because in nearly every home we've lived in there has been open land nearby which we fully appreciated. We did share our various backyards with many others, although seldom were others around when we were in the parks, etc. The Susquehanna River attracted many fisherpersons to our backyard, but unless they were rowdy or drinking, we barely noticed them. The river was about 20-30' below the house, which sits on the dike. In fact, recently it was endangered by the bridge-building upstream, which changed the river currents and eroded away much of the river bank behind three houses nearby, including our old home. The DEP arranged to bring in landfill to secure these properties, which I find rather temporary unless the river currents are also changed...
In any case, it's not part of my belief system to have "ownership" of the land, although I accept owning our home.
Visiting Ancestral Lands:
This has been the topic of many conversations in our family. When we moved to upstate PA, it felt like “home” to me – at the time, I had no idea that any of my ancestors had lived anywhere nearby. When driving through western MA and visiting the areas where my Buck ancestors lived, I felt at “home” in the region.
But the most significant times I felt the “call” of the ancestors was in Germany many, many years ago, and in Ireland, 10 years ago and counting. Even my husband felt the deep pull of the ancestors in Ireland – and he claims not to “feel” things. Leaving County Lietrim – the home of the Dolan clan, he actually had tears in his eyes and experienced a real sense of loss. I felt the same way leaving Rockhill and Bruree in County Limerick where my ancestors had lived and worked…
I also feel the pull in Minnesota, from which I moved some 41 years ago. Many generations of our family have lived, worked and died there and the pull is strong to return.
You can visit Susan’s blog for some spectacular photos of the Twin Cities (and more) if you wish to have a view of my original stomping grounds. We lived about 3 blocks from the Mississippi River and Susan has ample photos of Old Man River in every season!
So thank you, Mary Ellen, for your thought-provoking post. It had me thinking all day long!