Green Pennsylvania

On our way back from Ithaca yesterday we took the slower route, coming down route 14, which parallels the interstate-like 15 a little to the east. Beautiful! A seemingly endless green valley, with the classic Pennsylvania ridges to our sides, running on and on. Along the way we stopped and bought some good Paula Red apples. We passed through some interesting little towns: Alba, Ralston, Roaring Branch... I can imagine that people from these (disappearing?) communities have a very strong sense of place, and feeling the enchantment of the valley, I was reminded of an observation of Washington Irving's that I read when we visited Sunnyside a couple of weeks ago: Irving wrote of the importance of growing up in the shadow of a major natural wonder, and believed in the advantages of having a connectedness to a shore, a mountain, a lake, etc. Perhaps this is a significant deficit many of us suffer, a weak or non-existent relationship to a major natural feature. I grew up in the suburbs, with no natural wonders anywhere in sight. Little by little, however, I did develop a feeling of connectedness to "the woods". That might just be my "natural" environment, a New England woods. Shadowy, cool, inviting. You can smell it. Hear the murmur of a small stream. Our poets and essayists have so defined it that one easily becomes trapped in the idealized version of it. Another of my many, many bits of good fortune: the natural feature most dearly connected to my imaginary Arcadia is hardly disappearing; to the contrary, the woods are expanding and here in Pennsylvania there is a miraculous abundance. Lots of space to get lost in!
And incredibly, these seas of green have some impressive islands. Cayuga Lake, for example. Our paella picnic on the water's edge was great fun. Jay and Karen brought a big salad to accompany the rice. Fortunately, there was a very large bush to protect us from the breeze coming in off the water. It would have been impossible to keep the gas going without that shield. More good fortune: Alma and Cristina brought friends with appetites, so a paella that could have served 25 people was almost completely consumed by just 16. It was really a lovely evening.