“So where have you been, Ken? Why has Inspection been less than weekly as of late?”
The Jeep and the 98 Nissan Frontier sliced through pumpkin pie hills south of Rochester, New York, heading to Tennessee. Just a few hours earlier we were slowly cruising under a canopy of brilliant oranges, reds, greens and yellows on a one lane dirt road, carefully bouncing over rocks, dipping down into water washed out potholes, wheels rolling over a carpet of freshly fallen leaves. Destination: the barge to the mainland that crosses Stillwater Reservoir. For there are no roads to Beaver River Station, where I have been since late July.
I decided to lead my wife in the Jeep the scenic: slightly longer, way home
The mountains along old route 17 through Salamanca, Olean, and other lesser known New York woodland ports, did not disappoint. The leaves had not changed yet in Tennessee, except a light frosting of red on a few, when we finally drove down our quarter mile driveway the next day: finally arriving home to our own little valley. But they were in full Monet mode in New York.
How do I pose prose worthy enough to express the richness of the colors in an Adirondack fall? In Tennessee a tree changes here, changes there, until all that’s left is bare, lonely, limbs: looking down upon a beatific ground cover that once hung high. In the Central Adirondacks it’s as if a nuclear explosion of color swept the hills, radiating them with visual splendor.
How do you explain the joy of living where no road goes, where you can’t just drop off an exit ramp and buy a cup of admittedly wonderful blueberry cobbler coffee? The wonder of living where dead end roads are no longer than six miles long, and a few roads no longer than just a handful of feet? “Wonder” because you’re where coyotes munch on green apples, does and fawns cross across the back bay of the most isolated part of the lake: just a short walk from your house, headed to new feeding grounds?
We had been in the most remote, barely populated, part of the Adirondacks. As close to Alaska as you will get on the east coast.
Heading into Ohio I felt like some alien creature who had just landed on another planet he only visits occasionally, or a Native American trying to explain there’s more than riches and conquest when white men sailed into their harbors: a deeper connection to all that surrounds us.
Every night I was used to falling asleep to loon song, their mournful cries, delightfully insane laughter. I woke the next morning in my Tennessee bed thinking that, once again, I needed to chase out the chipmunk who had decided my Adirondack cabin was his new home. I expect, when I return next year, I’ll find him sitting in my rocking chair on the new front porch, smoking a pipe, demanding, “Where have you been?”
For three months, while I wrote and edited both a book and my next album in my Adirondack haven, the election, Romney, Obama, the bashing banter that somehow passes for “substance,” but is of little substance at all, was only a mishmash of voices on satellite radio. These were just voices I’d often turn off to hear the coyote, the loons or dive down deep into my own creativity.
I missed the meningitis outbreak in Nashville, where I live, and am far better off for all I missed. There are times I have to have those steroid injections just to keep away the screaming pain from a defect I was born with. I missed the annoying professorial demeanor of a president trying to keep his job, and the condescending looks given by his rude opponent who thought it was his right to tell a moderator whom would speak last, and when.
There’s so much I missed.
But for “some reason” I find no sadness from my loss.
I didn’t miss having my tank in my 1950s Duratech aluminum boat siphoned and replaced with water, but I caught it in time. I didn’t miss all false rumors and bickering that too often defines tiny towns. I did brave high waves in that small aluminum boat, 30mph winds, to rescue my wife’s wallet from where she had dropped it, down at the other end of the lake the day before: thanks in part to some honest young men and Marian, at Stillwater Hotel. And I didn’t miss panicking about my collie’s swollen nose that eventually went away: probably from a bee sting, or allergies. And, on the bright side: very “bright” side, I didn’t miss reconnecting with old classmates, from Town of Webb where I graduated from High School, at a wonderful reunion in Inlet, NY.
More than “many thanks” to Donna Boudreau Murphy and Kathy Murdock Hansen.
So would I stay there that long again? Yes, yes, yes! And year around, eventually, when I retire. This year I feel incredibly lucky to have not experienced all I missed by not being in what some laughingly refer to as “civilization.”
While pumpkin pie and I are by no means culinary friends, I love all the season brings, and especially the colors; even that specific shade offered by that seasonal desert slice I’ve never been all that fond of, one of the colors the leaves somehow manage to mimic. I love every season in the Central Adirondacks: the only place I have ever lived where that is a personal truism. Even bug season, though I certainly wish they would go elsewhere that time of year. They’re almost as bad as politicians.
Maybe we could get the two together during some odd version of The Dating Game so they’d leave the rest of us alone? They share a personality trait: both can be quite vampire-like.
On that last, pumpkin pie, day, hills and valleys offered up a grand finale’. A tasteful culinary gourmet display for the eyes to feast upon: falling leaves and color laden trees waved goodbye.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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