Written by Connor McCausland on February 16, 2015
Something about fresh snowpack laid under cloudy skies creates a semblance of being still in time. No sun, no noise. Just earth. The world you know has changed, if briefly, to a still and lifeless state.
Perhaps this illusion is accentuated in the Catskills region of New York, whose formula of rich history but (more recently) poor economy provides a solution to create nostalgia in all who visit. Old and defunct farms, shops, homes, churches, signs and a variety of automobiles are speckled throughout the nearly 6,000 square miles of rural landscape, in addition to the old roads and bridges which interlace each scene to the next.
The veins of the region take the form of great rivers, echoing songs of movement, life, and growth through the petrified, silver valleys. In these valleys one can observe pillars of smoke rising from small patches of assorted colors, locals keep themselves warm using the same methods observed for over a century. If one truly wishes, a glance back in time is attainable on a day like today. We who inhabit the region get an opportunity to exchange an easier but more complicated life to see a more difficult but undoubtedly simpler place in history.
But why do we look back? This phenomenon of hindsight undoubtedly occurs globally -- nostalgia in fact was once considered a mental illness. It is not a local thing, its powerful grip seems to thrust across all humankind.
We long for comfort, escape from the unknown. What lies ahead is invariably hidden from our view, but the past can be observed, analyzed, and divulged on. To go back is to be at peace, if only for a moment.
Because, like the snow that creates it, the moment of living in another time is fragile and tends to be interrupted quite promptly after it is achieved. An intrusion from reality: a buzz in the pocket, a snowplow barreling down the road, a “no-fracking” sign peeking out of the powder. It is a delicate experience, and all who have known it seek its pleasures as frequently as possible.
Thankfully, today provided me one of those moments, as I walked the expanse of a local dairy farm and felt as though anyone, at any place in time, would witness the exact same view as I did in those moments. I was in touch with the area and my place in its history, and in turn the true feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed me. I am not naïve to the gentle pretentiousness of this experience, however. As the concept of time dictates, going back is a true impossibility. But, on days like today in areas like this, one can achieve something close.
A feeling of being frozen.
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