Yesterday I put just under 350 miles on our poor old car because a friend was having some issues and just needed to talk them out.
Some might think that crazy. A phone call, or maybe a Skype chat–surely something less horrid for the environment would have worked… Wouldn’t it?
Well, not really. Sometimes I need to actually be present in my interactions with other people. Cues get translated via our posture, our eyes, our expressions… Everything about our physical presence carries additional messages that can make (or break) a meeting.
And for the most complete experience for us both, I needed to be there.
I enjoyed myself immensely. However, I had little clue as to the enormous rewards I would experience for choosing the long drive over the phone call. From the lovely lunch and discussion of the photographs and paintings adorning her walls to the great view off her deck as we discussed relationships, books, and those old school experiences, the few hours ended up being delightful.
But I received far more from my trip than that. If anything, I have to wonder what I did that was so special to be rewarded so much for the effort of spending time with a friend.
You see, the visit would have been great no matter what. I
like love people. I can’t spend time well in crowds because I get overwhelmed with the input. But one-to-one situations are emotional fuel. I got a lot of fuel yesterday.
Add to that an amazing drive along 9N through the Adirondack Park up through Bolton Landing (and, because Google Maps gave me the “long way around directions, all the way up along Lake George through Silver Bay, Ticonderoga, Crown Point and across Lake Champlain)…. No, I did not intend to drive all the way up that far to get into Vermont. I came home on the other side of the water, and while I felt rushed in both directions, the scenery inspired so many thoughts.
Heading north lets one glimpse into the history of the Adirondack Park and the tourism industry of the region. Vacation homes of the 19th and early 20th century élite spritzed the road, intermingling now with the camps and remnants of old logging towns. A little imagination and one can picture the days those hills were stripped of their trees, images of the slides and the labor involved in bringing the lumber down the steep hills, sweat-drenched laborers, teams of mules and oxen heads low as they waited for their next command.
On the way home, the less beautiful side of the mountains showed its face. Where tourism had not taken hold lays 22N, a narrow road between hills. Scattered along the gorge one finds huge shale quarries and the towns of Cambridge, Salem, and Hoosic…. God’s Country my mother used to call it. I think I can understand why. Like most Eastern towns, most are old, far from major cities and isolated by rolling pastures, and the land is inhospitable at best, but deceptively so. Water is plentiful; the land is lush and green; there are, even today, lots of trees. It’s beautiful, but it’s distant…
For me, it’s almost home.
But it’s got that human connection even there. Even where the landscape is gray with collapsed rock and asphalt and nondescript houses where the last remaining chips of faded paint had long since flaked to the overgrown brush cradling them, there was sense of origins.
Here, more than the bright beauty of the estates, is where I knew people were really living. Fighting for survival, as much a tales of inner city turmoil stand out for their power, real stories happen in small towns.
My mind wanders this way….
A few years back I read a piece in Writer’s on Writing II about how a woman needed to move away from the city for a time and how she was so afraid that moving to a small town in Appalachia would be a problem for her. She feared closed-minded thinking and intolerance for her politics and ideals. Instead, she found that her small town neighbors, who might not actually agree with her ideas, were incredibly civil and decent to her.
Her assessment comes pretty much close to my experience. Yes, small towns have earned their reputation as hotbeds for prejudice and closed mindedness, although no more than anywhere people gather. Cities have no lesser claim. Still, mutual need goes a long way to instill a willingness to “live and let live”. In a small town, you can’t go a few blocks away and find a new batch of people who think more like you. You work together, even when you don’t always want to.
(This could lead me into a tangent about the events of September 11, 2001. I know many people were stunned at how Americans all over the country got so up in arms over the attack on people in a city they’d probably never even visited, but it is the same thing. The isolation doesn’t just cover a town. It was, and is, country-wide. But that’s another post, and not mine to write.)
Let me finish with a link that, oddly enough, inspired some of this contemplation: Breaking the Intellectual Soulscape
And here, for those who may enjoy them: pictures of the towns I passed trough
Continuing on with the Unnamed Story…
When morning came and his alarm woke them, he was able to retreat further behind barriers of clothing, distance and image. He considered himself lucky. He’d survived the night moderately unscathed.
She was puzzled with him, he knew, but she’d given up trying to pry the information. She took her shower first while he checked for messages and dealt with the one from earlier.
She came out of the bath once more dressed, though this time she was wearing a shirt he’d loaned to her because somehow hers had gotten mangled in the bedding. She hadn’t bothered to put on her pants and her behind, covered once more in the emerald panties, peeked out enticingly from beneath the shirt’s hem. She was combing out snarls from her hair.
“Do you want to borrow some pants, Atyr?” he asked as he looked up from his monitor at the shadow she cast over him rather than her reflected image in the screen.
“No, I’m fine. It’s just down the hall to Nisxel’s room.” Her hand touched his shoulder hesitantly. “‘Listii….”
He sighed softly and reached up to gather her fingers. “I know, Mouse. It wasn’t you. But she…” Tears he’d shed too many times before threatened to escape again.
“Riia.” It was a statement of fact.
He answered it as if it were a question, nodding. “Riia. I still miss her, Atyr.”
His present lover moved around to sit on the edge of his desk. “Of course you miss her. You loved–still love her, don’t you?” She didn’t wait for an answer but reached over to embrace him. “I’m sorry, ‘Listii. I have a ‘tianii. I should have realized what the contact would trigger. If I stay here tonight I’ll keep my shields up too.”
He murmured a thanks, kissed her and watched as she left before he rose to take his shower. His own grip on his memories and thoughts he held tight until well into the washing.
As if any soap and water could wash away what you almost did, he scolded himself.
Thank the Gods Above that ‘Listii’s alarm had woken them before most of the House. Barely before… She had five minutes to change into fresh clothes. She was refolding ‘Listii’s shirt when a servant entered to move her bags.
So much for hiding the fact that she’d stayed in the man’s bed last night. ‘Mara would be furious. The rest of the family would shrug it off but not her son. ‘Mara was a law in his when it came to his father.
How dare she suggest that she wasn’t so completely in love with the man as to see no one else?
She grinned to herself wryly as she motioned for the maid to come fully into the room. “Don’t worry. I’m finished.”
The woman, obviously fi-kin given her manner, gave her a brief curtsy and went over for the bags she’d just opened on the bed. “Then, Lady, if you will follow me, I’ll show you to your new room.”
“I know where the guest suites are, sersa.”
“Milord Masorii has assigned you to the north wing, Lady, not the south.”
She hadn’t realized there were other rooms for overnight stays there save for Val’s own.
Raising a curious brow, she decided to take the time to see where her new bed hid. “A stop along the way, if you will, sersa. I need to return this shirt to ‘Listii Mirniia.”
‘Listii’s shower was going full force when she let herself back into the cozy room. Sweet scented steam settled in her nostrils at the first breath, reminding her of a very pleasant night.
Silence broke the man’s gruff shower song. “Who’s there?”
“Just returning your shirt. Thank you.”
A chuckle answered her. “No problem, Mouse.” Soon after he was singing again.
She let herself out once more wondering how the singer of the pair had been cursed with a voice little better than the average tracheotomy patient while Val, who had never enjoyed an audience, had the voice of a choir of angels.
If life had any justice in it, it would have been Val’s windpipe that had been crushed when the boys were six. Val wouldn’t have cared as long as he’d been able to play soldier and flirt with the pretty girls.
Then, she thought more on it and realized the justness of Fate’s little trick. More insular and sensitive, Val would never have survived childhood with such a handicap. That much teasing to someone already self-conscious of his own inadequacies, real and imagined…. And his ‘oh so charismatic’ younger brother, left with the voice of a nightingale, his sharp wit and adventurous spirit would have set himself on the throne like a carefree despot for a turbulent reign that would have been marked as much by debauchery as its brevity.
The fickle wisdom of the world….
- 10 Surprising Facts About The Adirondacks In New York (gadling.com)
- Lake Champlain Region Heritage (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Remembering North Country artist, illustrator Sid Couchey (northcountrypublicradio.org)