Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why the Adirondacks?

Of late, some of our posts have spurred divergent reactions and a fair amount of debate. We have been accused of living in a fantasy world. We have been called transients. Some have gone "on record" as supporting our lifestyle, which they deem "alternative." All of this has led us to believe that perhaps we should write down why we started this blog in the first place and, by extension, why we set out to build a house in the Adirondacks.

During Memorial Day weekend ten years ago, I set foot inside the Blue Line for the first time. I had just met someone who had been going to Fourth Lake since his earliest memory, the third generation of his family to do so. In fact, one of the first topics we ever discussed was the Adirondacks and his family's place there. To be honest, I was ambivalent. I had moved to New York City several years before, full of all the hopes and aspirations that propel young people to that island of possibility, and New York granted me much of what I sought. Unforgettable experiences. Knowledge the like of which I could only have imagined a few short years before. The sense that I was living in a true center of the world, participating in living history. For me, New York was a kind of promised land. In spite of my misgivings, I accepted his invitation to visit the family camp.

It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. By then I had already traveled or lived in Europe, Latin America, parts of North Africa and the Middle East. I had seen ancient sites and beautiful vistas that burn in my memory to this day. I had been in Berlin as the Wall was being dismantled. But this was different. It was sheer wilderness commingled with the genius of civilization. Structures unique to the world, hewn, it seemed, from the very earth itself. It was all so gentle, just as it was violent. Impenetrable fog would slowly give way to the most dazzling light, even more beautiful than that of the Aegean. It was a place that demanded that one live in the moment, simply because the unfathomable beauty of that moment could vanish in the blink of an eye. It was nature, culture, history, hope and failure converging in the same place. Still, I was merely smitten and not yet in love.

I kept coming back over the years and slowly began to grasp the rhythm of the place. The house began to take on a life all its own, a personality just as complex as the environment that surrounded it. I couldn't help but feel that the place was sizing me up, judging if I was up to the task of committing a lifetime to it. It was the first to judge that I was a transient. Days of unending rain, punctuated by only the slightest glimmer of gloaming light just before sunset. Fleeing from terrible biting insects, only to come upon the most graceful of herons hovering just above the surface of the lake. It was all maddening, but I also found myself falling in love.

Five years ago, 9/11 happened. I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I heard the talk of people jumping from the highest floors. The avenues were emptied of all traffic, populated only by the occasional emergency vehicle. An endless current of people walked uptown, and I walked with them, away from a solid wall of black smoke more forbidding than the angriest thunderstorm I had ever seen. Never had such a beautiful day turned so ugly. I was numb, thinking only that I had to avoid all famous landmarks in case more destruction was on its way. My promised land had been ripped from me. Forever. In the terrible months that followed, New York was less an island of possibility than it was a prison of trauma. I wondered if this was really the kind of history I wanted to live through. If I do live in a fantasy world, this experience informs that fantasy more than any other.

And so we built our house, and we write this blog. We write because we truly believe that the Adirondacks are unique to the world. That its legacy and the genius of its generations past and present are things worth celebrating and preserving. That it is a place where one moment and place in time can be a universe unto itself, if only one stops to look and listen. It is the place that took a transient like me and stopped me in my tracks.

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