Thursday, September 13, 2012

the feel of a place

When I picked up a friend Ajay from the train station in Albany, back in early summer, he didn’t have much to comment on in the city. Albany is like many other northeastern cities and there wasn’t anything of extreme consequence to take note of as we dealt with traffic and on ramps. But as soon as we entered the small towns and winding back roads of Washington County he started paying attention. There is a really specific vibe to my area of the country and I think you can only pick it up if you were born in this eastern region of the States. Ajay quietly looked at the sights outside the truck’s window, leaning out to see them almost as much as Gibson was a row behind him in the quad cab. I didn’t want to say anything because I wanted to hear it from him first and I knew a few examples up ahead who either make him blurt it out or start singing a song from elementary school. As we approached a turn around a high round hillside flecked with dairy cattle and a rail fence we kept driving around the bend till a perfectly nestled white clapboard farmhouse under a big King Oak tree that shaded its already small, covered porch. On the steps were some potted geraniums and a pair of boots. It was (or should have been) a vision of summer. But as soon as I heard the words pass Ajay’s lips, I smiled.

“This whole place feels like Halloween.”

I could not hold in that smile. “I know, I know!” I said, and we started talking about it. The towns around Cold Antler Farm such as Cambridge, Greenwich, Salem and Hebron all have that October vibe. It’s their stately, rolling fields of brown corn stocks and white houses tucked in hidden turns in the road. It’s the wide porches, the horses and cattle, and the big leafy trees that fill their front lawns. If you grew up where Ajay and I did, the landscape looks exactly like a more idealized version of rural Pennsylvania, We knew that the trees would erupt into oranges and reds, the front lawn would be covered in the confetti leaves. We could picture pumpkins and cats on the porch steps, see the Trick –or-Treaters walking by. Every house on every block in these towns looks like the random, indiscriminate “small town” for every Halloween or fall movie ever made. And its not as if the towns here tried to project the brand: it’s just who they always were. I felt it the first time I left my cabin in Vermont to drive into Cambridge, NY and out along route 372 in Greenwich (Which the locals pronounce Green Witch!) and felt that same combination of postcard October mixed with our favorite Holiday. This place hums with the spirit of Halloween. It doesn’t even have to try.

Photo is from National Geographic Traveler, which did a story about Washington County a few years ago. It's charming as all get out, and you can read that article here through a scanned pdf.Sorry, it's not online on their other sites!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we were in WA County last October - I said the same thing. We're actively farm shopping there and hope to have a place by the end of next spring. I think I've been looking for that county all my life. Years ago I read a book called "The Pixie on Old Post Road" the book stayed with me in the way some books read in childhood do and when we got to Washington County I said to my husband - "this is it. This is where we are supposed to be." Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and when summer gasps its last and that special light comes - my soul lights up. You're right - the place is perfect.
eileen hileman

September 13, 2012 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Ashling said...

Love that area. We've been to Greenwich a couple of times, to pick up packages of bees for the hives & to visit the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival...and it's exacty as you've decribed, beautiful, peaceful, rural in teh best of our imaginings.

September 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger SHJeffers said...

Probably why you are attracted to it. I went from TX to Saratoga for a year, and during the fall the whole place felt like living inside a painting. When the sun set over the mountain, you could hear the colors singing. It was a totally surreal experience.

September 13, 2012 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

I want to come visit Washington Co. now. I love how you make it sound and I bet it is exactly like this. I am so ready for fall right now and see little hints all around me here in North Ga.

I made your goat soap recipe yesterday and it turned out SO good. It took awhile to get it to trace though. I use a stick blender and had to turn it off several times because it was so hot. Had to run cold water over it. But just a little while after pouring it into the molds, it was hard! I made a honey oatmeal. Can't wait to try it. Since it was so easy and turned out so well, I will be using this recipe over and over. I want to make a pumpkin spice next. I am going to be selling soap at the holiday Market in Chattanooga the 1st 2 weekends in Dec. So gotta get busy. But wanted to let you know how well my soap turned out. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

September 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Ellen Rathbone said...

Exactly! That's what I love about CNY - and what I miss! There's just hat certain "something" that resonates in Sept and Oct there - the fall colors, the roadside stands of pumpkins, cider, and donuts, and the apples...oh, the apples! Don't have that here in Michigan...might just be another reason to put on the plus side of moving back to CNY!

September 13, 2012 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Your words paint such a beautiful picture.
I live here in Chester County PA and know exactly what you mean. My road comes to life in October with every color you would expect to see in a fall landscape. I am very familiar with Carbon County where you grew up and you're description is spot on. We do live in a beautiful part of the country.
Washington County is on my list of places to visit the next time we head up toward the Adirondacks.

September 13, 2012 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

That was a great article!

September 13, 2012 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Jenna, there is no train station in Albany. You must mean Rensselaer. It's across the Hudson River.

September 13, 2012 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Megan, a farmer at heart said...

I just started reading John Katz blog and now this post of yours I swear I have never wanted to visit a place more till now. I'm hard core in love with NE and I'm trying to find a place to settle. Your blogs make me feel apart of a community that I really really want to be apart of someday!

September 13, 2012 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

come over and visit folks!

September 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

That's it Kate, the Albany Station! Good job!

September 13, 2012 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Thank you for the link to that great article!

September 13, 2012 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Rensselaer train station, Jenna. It's not nice to confuse tourists-- that happens a lot!! There isn't a train station in Albany. It's in another city across the Hudson River.

Train tracks and highways aren't the prettiest places in America.

I doubt you spent any time in Albany going to the Rensselaer train station from the highway. Just sayin'.

By the way, I completely agree with you about the stunning beauty of Washington County. Dad's family is from there, and I drive through Washington County often to get to Vermont. I always take my time because it is just so beautiful year round.

September 13, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Margie said...

Loved the article. Would love to visit in the fall. Thanks for sharing.

September 13, 2012 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

If I could 'like' this-I would! And it's absolutely the explanation for what I felt last antlerstock and have tried to find since here in Muskoka; with some close calls.... But oh my heck, there is something there....

September 13, 2012 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

The North 40 in fall just kills me every time. There's that one spot with the opening in front of the trees with all of those colorful beehives.

I could be buried there, it's so gorgeous.

September 13, 2012 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Your blog is the number one reason I want to visit the northeast US.

I firmly believe that places hold our memories for us, too.

September 14, 2012 at 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that I've never seen that article before?!? Thank you so much for sharing that-it sums up this place (and these places) perfectly...right down to Rosie in Shushan (who has been known to be willing to deliver Meatbagz for us from time to time, no charge). Washington County really is one of the best places in the world, and it's a nice thing to see it recognized and appreciated-by locals and visitors alike!

September 14, 2012 at 2:19 PM  

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