Fort Plain, New York. Square brick buildings randomly sitting alone in fields of overgrowth. Tractor wheels and carts with trees growing out of what used to be the center of farm equipment. Abandon lives frozen in time and taken over by brush and trees. The random building told a story of a different time long forgotten. Highways built that took people far away from the past. Make-shift homes that clung on to staying. What did this place used to be?
We speed through on the I90. No one else taking notice as they focused on their destinations. “Albany 42 miles” the green and white highway sign reports. Snow covered patches of landscape gives some visual interest to the brown dead-looking trees. The green pine trees remind us they are alive.
Someone had taken the time to spell out “Fort Plain” on the side of a hill to let the passersby know that they are there, they exist, they are a proud village. The constant sound of wheels turning and speeding by – I wonder if the residents even notice? Is it just background music to their lives?
Home Depot, T.J. Maxx, Mattress Express, Walmart, signs of current civilization. Driscoll truck, truck, truck, truck on the highway today. The blue sky is winning over the white clouds. A plane flies low in easy sight. Must be an airport around here. Albany exit. Progress towards our destination. Stoic birds sit still in trees and on posts, waiting. Waiting or watching? Watching the hurried destruction of their wildlife home. Dead trees line the highway. Beautiful and historic scenes are viewed but knowing there is no way to capture the beauty. Only in the minds eye can they be recreated, recounted. Shadows create their own landscape art of interest, flashing by at speeds that don’t promise capture in any form.
Everyone’s eyes stare straight ahead, but I’m blessed to look around me, seeing, really seeing. Otis, Massachusetts. Broken down church surrounded by chain linked fence. Post Office next to a Volkswagen Van with a white top and faded red body, the peace sign proudly displayed among the collection of window stickers. We sway right, we sway left as we wind through the road cutting through the forest. The river is swollen. The pool is empty. Moss covers the jagged rocks. Pine trees tower ten-stories high. The natural strobe-light flashes through the trees. My daughter sleeps on my arm as I write with the other. Abandon house. Round rocks to the left of me. Jagged rocks to the right. Old stone walls hold nature back. Hard lean right. Glistening rivers flow.
The town of Sandiford is next as the river runs, we race it ahead. Rock Mountain threatens to keep residents in their valley. Who cut through this place to make a road? Route 20. Wet rocks bleed water as bright green moss claims it’s place. The sensation of monstrous, mountainous walls of landscape makes you catch your breath. Breathe.
Looking left the forest reassures you. Pebble boulders with water trickling over, breaks the view with unexpected beauty! Wishing the road allowed a longer look at this unexpected scene. The forest gives way to woods. Thomas R. Bell Lumber Co. pops up in front of the river. A clearing allowed some homes in the area to exist. Familiar trash and recycling totes remind us that life is the same here. “Crossroads” offer tarot card readings. It’s a building so close to the road you wonder how no one has hit it yet. It’s followed by a town of houses that line the road. In the houses that follow, some are beautiful old historic houses that were well maintained from their previous lives. First Church of Winsted stands strong with the promise of history. McGrane’s on The Green & Deli promise food to the locals. Looking left a town square with a stage that the Rotary Club maintains. Park Place Hardware to the right. We’ve only traveled twenty miles, but they’ve been windy single lane miles. Now we excel onto the highway. Our driver has made up the ten minutes we took on that rest break. Two lanes curve out ahead of us. Oh, factory jobs explain the local money. Back to the roar of the tires and the trucks, trucks, trucks. Bump, bump, bump the road answers the question we did not ask.
What these parents won’t do for their second born child. Their pride, their Yale lacrosse starter. Their daughter. Every few days they make this trip to Connecticut. In silence they travel. He passes on the outside; he passes on the inside. Closing the distance between them and their daughter. My daughter and I get to come along on this particular day. It will be about an eighteen-hour round trip adventure over the river and through the forest.
We are thankful when we roll to a stop in New Haven. The city is a different kind of forest. The towering brick buildings humble you immediately. The architecture is breath taking. How many city blocks does that building cover? It is massive! It transports you back in time. It’s hard to take all the details in, but we are on foot now so my eyes can scan at their leisure. Inscribed on the wall of the library I read, “The Library is the heart of the University.” That is the truth.
I struggle to keep current as my mind wants to transport me back to the 18th century. I am after all looking at the same buildings. I stare at the details of the architecture. I marvel at the craftsmanship. The library holds almost five million volumes of work in fifteen different buildings. I walk into one such building and I’m in awe of the old volumes of books on display behind a glass walled room, guarded by an armed man. So much knowledge in one place.
Friendly co-eds strike up a conversation with us. We are happy to engage with them. We all instinctively know how lucky we are to be in this space, in this moment in time. We wish them well and continue our journey and they on theirs.
Soon we will see the precious person we traveled so far to see. We will watch her play. We will watch history in the making. The broad strokes of the game will be recorded in history for someone else to view a hundred years from now. We will get to hug her before we head back through the forest, the woods and around the river. Our own places await our return. I believe we are slightly changed by all we’ve seen.