A first visit to the Catskills

A new place may need more than one visit before you can see anything but yourself.

We drove down the bumpy, grassy lane and over the drooping chain that has meant to keep the unwelcome out. We had borrowed a small, rusty, reliable, 5-speed Toyota Tercel to make the trip from New York City. My memories are in black and white because I took only one black and white photograph - of the house perched on the grassy hill above the pond. We sat on the swings and looked at the mournful house, unoccupied for so long. I can't recall if we went inside. Perhaps we did, I imagine all we saw was mouse droppings and a splintered floor. We left after only a few minutes and returned as sad as we had been to our tiny Queens apartment.

The spider weaves her web about the glistening tiny knives of the wood nettle. Do not disturb unless your business is good!

Around that time many things had become unpleasant - a plague of flies hatching in the apartment, neighbors with bedbugs, our own bed and belongings sprayed with toxic chemicals, unpayable bills, and a windstorm that blew bits of broken glass and dirt into our windows and across our bed and furniture (as I ran to close one creaky window against the swirl of grey gravel, a bit of glass flew into my pupil and stuck like a tiny stiletto. No flushing with water would remove the dagger - only Jared with a cotton swab could finally loosen it). What else can I say - I am not a city kid.

The red winged blackbird calls from his perch above each Catskills farm pond framed in cat tails. Two years ago, our Sourlands meadow had not been mowed. The two dozen standing cat tails satisfied him - and then his late arriving mate. He now calls from above meadow, again unmowed. We all await his mate's return.

We had decided to try living in the Catskills - just to get away from New York. Of course, that did not work. Perhaps if we had entered the forest around the grey house, we would have seen the place in color. We may not have been discouraged by the lack of running water, the grey meadow that had not yet borne blackberries, dewberries and huckleberries.

The ladies tresses glisten, too, with silvery hairs.

We didn't know the gnarled grey trunks of Amelanchier and hawthorn would light up with white flowers that fade briefly and return as fiery red fruits. The lady tresses orchids had not yet unwound our tired spirits from a world too attuned to the man-touched. All we could see was the tired, grey house, sinking on its stilts.

He leaves the forest of asters and hornbeams, curious to see the sedge meadow.