Itís official: Iím in love. No, I donít have a new crush. This is a long-time love affair. I was just oblivious to the extent of my emotion and attraction for many, many years. For far too long, any inkling I had of my true feelings was explained away. But I canít deny it any more.
Iím ready to admit that I am in love Ė with Chenango County.
The realization that Iíve got ďa thingĒ for our corner of the world came as I was driving home last night. I was so caught up in mooning over the way the late afternoon sun illuminated the many shades of green in Mother Natureís spring lineup, that Iíd let my speed slip well below the posted limit.
I was struck, not only with a wave of guilt because of the line of cars behind me, but by the true depth of my connection to this place we all call home.
I listened to Keith Severson accept the Agriculture Advocate Award at the Chamber luncheon yesterday and was touched by something he said. He told those in attendance that everyone should leave Chenango just long enough to ďthirst to come back.Ē Thatís what I did.
Growing up here, I didnít see much of redeeming value. But then I left for the better part of 15 years, and now I just canít get enough.
This time of year, I think every day is more beautiful than the last. Whether Iím driving through the winding country roads of our county, or walking through the fields and woods around my house, Iím almost overwhelmed by that beauty. Spring has unfurled around us over these last few weeks. There are so many subtly different shades of green splashed across our rolling hills. Apple and cherry trees are filled to capacity with fragrant pink and white blossoms. Lilacs are in full bloom. The woods smell spicy to me, with all of that new growth, and the air is filled with bird calls.
Iíve enjoyed the other places Iíve lived and traveled, donít get me wrong, but my standards of natural beauty were set high by growing up here.
I lived for five years on Coloradoís Western Slope, where the Rockies meet the High Plains Desert. I spent countless hours exploring the rugged box canyons and mesas, and had the privilege of rafting down the Colorado into western Utah where I slept in a teepee and saw the petroglyphs of ancient tribes etched into the red rock. But while I was doing it, in my writing, I was waxing poetic about upstate New York.
I dream about it sometimes, the feel of slip rock beneath my feet as I climb to the summit of one of my favorite trails in the Colorado National Monument. But when I wake up with the memory of those familiar vistas still fresh in my mind, I have no regrets that I am back here. This is where my heart calls home.
Iíve been back in Chenango County for over a year, now, but I still get people asking me why I came back. Iím tempted to look around me at the rolling hills and say, ďDo you really need to ask?Ē