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Where's Your Hundred-Mile Home?

I went out yesterday to drive the path I've taken for years, starting in the north, near Troy, and driving south along the Hudson River toward the Rip van Winkle Bridge, then driving north up the other side. I've done it so many times, it's become a ritual comfort. Yesterday was bright and cold, the landscape warming to spring. The variation of tone and texture now resembles fall, with warm reds and golds and browns preceding the eventual and inevitable green. Passing my favorite places -- Hannacroix Creek, The Long Trail at New Baltimore, Vosburg Swamp -- is like running my fingers over prayer or worry beads, both comforting and soothing to feel the familiarity. The lure, of course, is to dive into each place and find the subtle and seasonal changes... walking to vernal ponds to hear peepers, taking trails to the river and finding the low-tide stubble of mud plaintain, or noticing the gentle cast of evening light across the opposite shore.

People who know me know that I'm often more comfortable outside than in. That I like to get up early to watch day break. That I have a fascination with discovering evidence of human activities that have been forgotten, that I approach outside as if it's a massive library of human and natural expressions waiting for me to read into them. It is by approaching each day or each visit with fresh eyes, knowing that something new and fantastic is waiting to present itself to me, that makes a vast expanse of public space feel personal and intimate. It's my conversation with a sacred place, honed over years, learning to see both critically and softly, listening with attentiveness, being gentle with what I see and experience, and learning to let the region show me its best self, to find it at its best and share it with others. It's not that I don't see the flaws, but I forgive them. Isn't that what it means to love home? Where's your hundred-mile home? Is it inside you, or outside?

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