I was close to my roots. My birthplace is Buffalo, New York. The soft voice in my IPad Maps App directed me northeast from the busy Friday morning streets of Latham, New York to the quiet countryside.
As I drove over small winding blacktop roads, through small towns, and past centuries old farmsteads, I reviewed my past as it came back to me in waves. The lush green dew-covered fields, the fallen yellow-red leaves patterned on the lawns, and the crisp fresh air, reminded me of my youth in New England. I couldn’t help thinking about the last fifty years of my life. Why did I leave this beautiful countryside? In my youth I believed that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Life would be better if I moved from town to town in Massachusetts, or if I moved to Oregon and finally Florida. In the end we bring ourselves to each location, our troubles, our happiness or our grief, instead of confronting life head on.
I had known happiness in New England with its cold winters, Indian summer days and even the muggy summers. Returning now I felt a sense of belonging, I felt old, familiar roots grabbing at my feet, imploring me to make a final move back. But there is too much to leave behind in Florida. There are different roots there, set down by my parents, a house, land, their friends, my new friends, as well as a dream fulfilled in the form of a dog training building. The chance to return to New England is gone, an opportunity lost. For whatever reason, for now, a return to this beautiful scene is not in the cards.
The town of Cambridge is picture postcard perfect, a Norman Rockwell landscape, a place that needs to remain a secret so the celebrity world doesn’t intrude and change it forever. So I can return next year and everything, every historic building, will still be there, old and quint and artistic and functional.
My destination was breakfast at the Roundhouse Bakery and Café in Cambridge. I chose to try their oatmeal. It turned out to be so delicious that I returned every day again and again to have it for breakfast. It was made with nuts and apple slices and spices intermixed in the oatmeal, making the meal filling and addictive. I give it four stars, best oatmeal ever.
I walked around a former freight yard and depot behind the Roundhouse Café after breakfast. The buildings, by the still functional tracks, may have once brought in farming implements but appeared now to be used for galleries. I smelled brief tinges of manure from the surrounding fields. Like a dog blowing in scent through its nose, I kept testing the wind to identify other odors. In addition to the manure, I smelled decaying leaves and something sweet, perhaps the latter was coming from the restaurant. I wanted to remember every smell, every building, every detail from this trip.
This journey would have been even more fun if shared. I am alone now, sometimes feeling the pain of oneness and other times savoring it, a mixed bag. There is no one to hurry me, divert my attention. The day, the town, this moment is mine alone to fill with memories.
The skies filled with soft gray clouds, hiding the sun, the wind pulled the forecasted warm temperatures lower. Wanting an opportunity to walk and warm up I decided to explore the town, stopping first at the big Cambridge Antiques Center. The building was filled front to back, part of the downstairs and an entire second floor, with items small and large from centuries and decades past. Things that I have cast off over time are now expensive relics of the past. Who knew? I talked to the owner who briefed me on the history of this old three-story building now filled with furniture worth a small fortune. At one time artisans made furniture on the third floor and sold it below. When the economy fell and people could no longer afford new hand-made furniture the entrepreneurial owner went into the business of making caskets. The owner and I laughed at the artisans’ wise decision to roll with whatever life had thrown their way, building something everyone needs, another place to sleep, this time in death. The building had also functioned as a large department store. But now the creaky, wooden floors and steep wide steps leading upstairs were filled with generations of estate items.
The rest of the morning I moved from store to store, making a note to return to Battenkill Books where I would probably spend too much money.
Next on my list was a drive to the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center, a 20 minute drive NW of Cambridge. Nestled in the rolling, green hills, it is truly a sanctuary, immaculate and peaceful with miles of hiking trails tempting me. After chatting with the receptionist I returned to my Fiesta and sighed. This place alone warrants a return visit.
The 55 degree cloudy and windy weather was chilling my thin Florida skin. I was cold and hungry. Punching in my destination again in the IPad’s Map app the female voice directed me back to Latham. For the record, if you ignore her directions and go the wrong way, she stays silent. I pictured the female rolling her eyes. “Get lost. Like, I care?”
Saturday my goal was to return to Cambridge, to visit Jon Katz and Maria Wulf at Bedlam Farm, kiss a donkey on his soft brown nose, pet Lenore the love dog, watch a special Border Collie herd sheep and meet many online friends. I’m nervous. I’m a loner, a dog person, uncomfortable in groups but this is a legion of encouragers, a foreign element in today’s society. We strive to help each other feel safe, fostering creativity and growth.
To be continued….