Originally publish long before we returned home to the Adirondacks, this is one of my personal favorite editions of my column. The picture was taken a few days ago on an Adirondack trail near our home.
The Jeep and the ’98 Nissan Frontier sliced through pumpkin pie hills south of Rochester, NY, 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. My wife, Millie, followed in a Jeep we used to own.
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 sweeps 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?
I’m referring to the wonder of living where dead end roads longer than six miles long can end in beauty worth that dead end, where some roads are no longer than just a handful of feet, ending in a cabin overlooking immense splendor. “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, and all that just a short walk from your house. Of course they dine in our yards too.
Hypnotized by the leaves, we were leaving one of the most remote, sparsely and 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 being who had just landed on another planet he only visits occasionally. I also felt like a Native American trying to explain there are riches worth more than gold to white men that just sailed into their harbors that there’s a deeper, more meaningful, connection in all that still surrounds us today.
No matter where I am memory clings lovingly; loving nights where 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 expected, when I returned next year, I’d 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, occasionally I had on the radio. I really wasn’t listening to the kind of background noise that’s easy to ignore: an upcoming election. Romney, Obama, the bashing banter that somehow passes for “substance,” but is of little substance at all. To me no more than a mishmash of voices on satellite radio. Since this is a second go at this column, the only sound this year were, occasionally, the upcoming, midterm election.
Ask me to recall what they said and I probably wouldn’t have any idea.
More often I turn off the radio to hear the weird music offered by coydogs, the coyote, the loons: they help me dive down deep into my own personal perpetual blooming creativity. A delightful condition I have ‘suffered’ from starting before school.
Last time I missed the meningitis outbreak in Nashville, where I lived and am far better off for all I missed. Now I’m here for the rest of our lives I really don’t miss Nashville. I did what I needed to do and was more than pleased to retire, to return to the only place I ever really considered home.
Back then I was returning to steroid injections just to keep away the screaming pain from a defect I was born with. I have learned to live with that and a lot more. But the beauty, my writing, and my slow return to music make it worthwhile, and living with Millie full time fills the heart. No more lonely, yet fun, tours. I do miss them, and I don’t. Road life is unpredictable.
We just celebrated our 45th anniversary, almost 50, if you count years together.
I don’t miss the increasing murder rate, back and forth about masks that sometimes became murderous too, like the guy down the road threating mask wearers. So there’s much I don’t miss. But I do miss my southern friends.
Yet I feel no sadness for most of the loss. Nashville and I have had what one could call an amicable divorce.
I did miss reconnecting with old classmates here: this was 50 years since we graduated Town of Webb. Last year there was a wonderful reunion in Inlet, NY. I am grateful for that. And I feel incredibly lucky to live in a place some might not consider “civilization.” Always seemed more civilized than bigger towns, and most ARE bigger.
While pumpkin pie and I are by no means culinary friends, I love all the season brings: especially the colors. Even that specific shade offered by that seasonal dessert 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. The only place I truly felt at home. I even enjoy bug season, though I certainly wish they would go elsewhere that time of year. They’re almost as bad as politicians. Almost.
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 years ago, when I went back to Tennessee, 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. I was greeted by green leaves, one change here, then there and disappointment.
Now no more.
“Inspection” is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 50 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.
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