Unexpected pleasures in returning home

Growing up in the Hudson Valley, I was mildly aware of the extent and variety of beauty that surroundedthe town, but as with people who are born in a certain place, it is often difficult to appreciate its unique features until there has been enough time away (or one has fully ripened to adulthood).

The decision to spend our first family vacation for a week in New Paltz was driven by my wanting to be near enough to my 93 year old mother so that we could visit several times during the week. Living three and a half hours away means that visits are never frequent enough, so the opportunity to be close by was a double allure. We could spend time in favorite places and catch up with friends we had known for many years.

Day one we trooped up to Lake Minnewaska and hiked around the beautiful lake. It was not the dazzling turquoise from my memory, but the dramatic vistas of cliff down to glacial lake were still satisfying and stunning. The short hike to Awosting Falls rewarded with the eighty foot waterfall galloping down, but my memories of relaxing on the giant rocks while reading and then taking a dip in the frigid mountain pool at the bottom were just that. Memories. The water was tinged with brown and completely cordoned off. People came merely to see the falls. There was no swimming out and inching behind them so that the sheet of hurtling water was inches in front of my face as I perched on a slim ledge of rock.

The next day we found Split Rock, another favorite where the six foot crevasse between the rock boasted crystal clear water rushing down from a twelve foot waterfall. There is a pool at one end to gain access to the narrow passage. A ninety one degree day meant that this now fifteen dollar per person spot was populated as heavily as the small parking lot would allow. I cringed as I watched an 8 and 9 year old boy and girl gaily leap in from a spot eight feet up. “Just once more and then we have to go,” their mother called out. They were clearly well versed in this ritual, but the water was only waist deep. Yikes.

The following day at the Mohonk Mountain House started with an unofficial tour by a friend, one of the direct descendants of the original owners. This treat set the stage for our hike to the iconic tower that watches over the entire valley. It is emblematic of the Hudson Valley, and a painting of autumn in the Shawangunk Ridge hangs in my office. The bright golds, ochres and crimsons take me immediately home, particularly as the artist is one of our long time friends we will visit on this trip.

My daily visits with my mom are placeholders, connecting the dots of time together, enjoying the glory of the garden where she lives, the sparkle on my daughter’s shirt, or the softness of my husband’s beard as she reaches out to give it a gentle pat.

We are stitching together past and present, and it is the most satisfying and fulfilling way to spend time. A second visit to Split Rock gives us time to read and make forays into the icy water while listening to the sounds of the busy waterfall ever refilling the narrow gorge. We hear the whoops and shrieks of the kids as their body temperatures plummet upon greeting the mountain stream. This is summer as it’s meant to be, and I realize that I’ll be back here. I don’t know when, but as I gaze at the relaxed figures of my family, I know this place is seeping into their bones, too. I have succumbed once again to the magic of the Hudson Valley and I breathe out a deep sense of belonging and calm. We will always have this place, just as it has us.

up in the Hudson Valley, I was mildly aware of the extent and variety of beauty that surrounded the town, but as with people who are born in a certain place, it is often difficult to appreciate its unique features until there has been enough time away (or one has fully ripened to adulthood).

The decision to spend our first family vacation for a week in New Paltz was driven by my wanting to be near enough to my 93 year old mother so that we could visit several times during the week. Living three and a half hours away means that visits are never frequent enough, so the opportunity to be close by was a double allure. We could spend time in favorite places and catch up with friends we had known for many years.

Day one we trooped up to Lake Minnewaska and hiked around the beautiful lake. It was not the dazzling turquoise from my memory, but the dramatic vistas of cliff down to glacial lake were still satisfying and stunning. The short hike to Awosting Falls rewarded with the eighty foot waterfall galloping down, but my memories of relaxing on the giant rocks while reading and then taking a dip in the frigid mountain pool at the bottom were just that. Memories. The water was tinged with brown and completely cordoned off. People came merely to see the falls. There was no swimming out and inching behind them so that the sheet of hurtling water was inches in front of my face as I perched on a slim ledge of rock.

The next day we found Split Rock, another favorite where the six foot crevasse between the rock boasted crystal clear water rushing down from a twelve foot waterfall. There is a pool at one end to gain access to the narrow passage. A ninety one degree day meant that this now fifteen dollar per person spot was populated as heavily as the small parking lot would allow. I cringed as I watched an 8 and 9 year old boy and girl gaily leap in from a spot eight feet up. “Just once more and then we have to go,” their mother called out. They were clearly well versed in this ritual, but the water was only waist deep. Yikes.

The following day at the Mohonk Mountain House started with an unofficial tour by a friend, one of the direct descendants of the original owners. This treat set the stage for our hike to the iconic tower that watches over the entire valley. It is emblematic of the Hudson Valley, and a painting of autumn in the Shawangunk Ridge hangs in my office. The bright golds, ochres and crimsons take me immediately home, particularly as the artist is one of our long time friends we will visit on this trip.

My daily visits with my mom are placeholders, connecting the dots of time together, enjoying the glory of the garden where she lives, the sparkle on my daughter’s shirt, or the softness of my husband’s beard as she reaches out to give it a gentle pat.

We are stitching together past and present, and it is the most satisfying and fulfilling way to spend time. A second visit to Split Rock gives us time to read and make forays into the icy water while listening to the sounds of the busy waterfall ever refilling the narrow gorge. We hear the whoops and shrieks of the kids as their body temperatures plummet upon greeting the mountain stream. This is summer as it’s meant to be, and I realize that I’ll be back here. I don’t know when, but as I gaze at the relaxed figures of my family, I know this place is seeping into their bones, too. I have succumbed once again to the magic of the Hudson Valley and I breathe out a deep sense of belonging and calm. We will always have this place, just as it has us.

About Meg

Meg is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over thirty-five years clinical experience. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Boston University School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

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