Whenever I visit somewhere new one of my favorite things to do is wander and look hard for all of the details that make this fresh place feel different from ones more familiar to me.
This summer my family vacationed in the New York Finger Lakes region. We found small towns and residential stretches of Main Streets that looked straight out of Thornton Wilder, or when a many-gabled grand house had fallen into disrepair, maybe something a bit more Shirley Jackson by way of Stephen King.
There was an honesty and openness that seemed to be assumed and felt a bit out of time to me. We came across so many well-stocked, honor-system farm stands – for produce, honey, baked goods – even foraged mushrooms – “be sure to check the fridge!” the sign said.
The country is beautiful and remote, and there are clues to how rough winters can be from parked badly weathered farm equipment to road signs indicating the short season in which a non-state road is maintained and passable, but there’s bounty too – rolling hills of hay and grapevines. One of my best friends is a farmer. She often has to visit Equify Auctions when she needs new equipment, so seeing all the tractors and ploughs reminded me of her. It also reminded me of the amount of additional equipment she must purchase in case essential apparatus, like tractors, encounter issues that require repairs; for example, tractor tires are a necessity for replacement of worn ones. I got the sense that life in this part of the world is challenging, but that the people who live here are connected to this place and this land. Few of the factories that built the region remain open, but new breweries and vineyards dot the roadside.
. . . and, perhaps, most of all the people seem tied to the water. The rivers, lakes and canals begat the commerce that built the network of towns that still dot alongside them and water remains at the heart of life in this region. All roads seem to lead to the Lake.
I hadn’t realized it until I started writing this post, but I now see that when I travel I don’t take pictures to remember. Instead, I use this marvelous, flexible medium we all love to help me look harder in an effort to try to understand what I see – to find a sense of place.
Keep your eyes wide open,