“All things look good from far away and it is man's eternally persistent childlike faith in the reality of that illusion that has made him the triumphant restless being he is.”
In a technologically advanced world, tantalizing images of exotic places blip onto our computer monitor, television screen and our very consciousness with startling frequency. It's a blessed exposure and one that, coupled with the transportation available to us in this modern age, enables us to get up from our seats and if motivated actually visit the "reality of that illusion". The message, like it or not, is also a persistent promise of greener grass and can all too easily erode the appreciation of the soil beneath our feet and the landscape within view.
I am certainly not immune. Not hardly.
All the more reason to turn from those presentations now and then to view our actual surroundings, perhaps even revisit the sown seeds from which we sprang, the under-appreciated environs that fostered us and the ancestors that came before, the predecessors who breathed the very life into us and nurtured us in childhood and beyond, both while living and long since gone.
My mother and stepfather recently purchased a cabin and several acres of land in Juniata County, Pennsylvania less than 10 crow-flown miles from the original homestead of my grandmother's family, once treasured parcels that slipped from the Van Arts when the burden of physical upkeep and taxes outweighed the resolve to keep the last remaining plat of a vestigial retreat from the outside world.
Having made the pilgrimage there a few months ago, I can attest that the old farmhouse and a few stubbornly standing outbuildings still huddle in the shadow of Shade Mountain. That afternoon the ghost of my father in boyhood flitted about the premises with other apparitions whose living names I couldn't place but who were adorned with physical features easily recognized as family heirlooms.
In time they dashed off into the neighboring woods in search of critters, footpaths and escape. I wanted desperately to follow after them but posted signs warned against my trespass and confirmed that this was now very much the place of others.
But the whispers of those ghosts are audible if not wholly coherent throughout the valley below, whirling over each hilltop and straying deeply into each of the many forested hollows. Just this weekend, I chased after them, muffled as they were by the crunching of fallen leaves and the arias sung by the flowing west branch of the Mahantango Creek.
I chased too the very real giggles and worry-free chattering of my very real daughters and wished to be nowhere else in the world but there with one foot in the past and one foot firmly, happily planted in the present.
For those fleeting moments, at least, the fading hue of the Pennsylvania grass was more than green enough for me.