I grew up in the Hudson Valley. Its river, creeks and ponds; mountains and farmlands; and woods and gardens have always been my soul’s balm. As a child, I would sit beneath the clustered leaves in my father’s small vineyard or perch in the big maple in front of our house — the house my grandfather built — and be comforted. When I was older and could drive, I would put $3.00 worth of gas in the tank (it was the 1960s) and would go all day, choosing my roads and turns as I went along, feeling the beauty and constancy of the Hudson Valley soothe me; it was always there for me.
Each season had its own beauties, and I loved them. I would drive along with the windows down in every season because I wanted to breathe in good, clean air. I would often stop in secret places, all alone to enjoy the loveliness of it all. Every curve in the road was a dance to me. The villages I came upon had their own charm, but it was the natural face of the Valley that I loved most. Every season. Soothing my soul, nurturing me. I was always thankful for the gifts it gave me.
Time passed. My life changed and so did my focus. More time passed, changing life again. I was alone now, my children grown. Just me again. And after years of yielding to the urge to explore and experience what was around another corner, whether turning that corner had revealed ancient ruins in Arizona, endless wheat fields in Iowa, or the verdant back roads of the Carolinas, I found myself wanting to come home. I was back in the Valley, visiting family. As I stood in the cemetery where my mother and father and oldest brother were buried, with the warm October sun on my face, every fiber in my being whispered, “Come home.” My memories reached way back to the little girl, secret in the vineyard. A wordless prayer…this wanting to go home. And then, there I was just a few months later within walking distance of my grandfather’s house. It was natural, resuming the old ways, following those same old roads and rediscovering all the things I loved about them so long ago when $3.00 was all I needed.
It all had waited for me. The Valley’s natural face had not changed, though other things had. The wonderful Hudson still flowed, still offered sanctuary and clarity on early morning visits when the gulls were often my only company.
The waterfronts and riverside parks still beckoned me down to the river where I would sit in silence while the water did its wonderful work on my spirit.
This Valley blesses me, comforts me, heals me. Its beautiful face — my friend in every stage of my life. It has felt the drum of a child’s happy feet and welcomed them. It accepted my tears when they fell. With many gifts it now anticipates my arrival as I turn yet another corner in the road.
Now, at age 70, I have come full circle….back to my roots, the Hudson Valley. Home.
A retired English teacher, Linda Shelmandine lives with her family in Kingston, and is currently writing a children’s book about gender identity.
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