I needed a vacation. I love my gardens and my work but every now and then a lady just has to throw up her hands and say, “to hell with it all! I’m goin’ exploring.” So that’s what I did.
In July I hopped a flight back to my hometown in Pennsylvania. No matter where I go or what I do, the moment I see the verdant hills and red barns of Bucks county my heart starts spinning like a weathervane. I’m a string of many flags stretched by the wind, called back to the land I call home. Sometimes I wonder if I will always feel like this…
My trip home was the first of an unusual itinerary of traveling this summer. Everything to come would be exotic, obscure, unfamiliar. But here I was, at the start of a new season, in my home country, with some of my dearest friends on earth, beginning with waterfalls.
For the first time ever I made the pilgrimage up to Rickett’s Glen State Park. Curled around a serene and sleepy lake, the park climbs up from the grassy shoreline through tangled thickets of blackberries and raspberries. Untouched forests of old growth hemlocks cave suddenly into twenty-two cascades of rushing mountain waterfalls and cold clear swimming holes embroidered by wood nettle. Thistle and snapdragons line the skirts of the ascending mountain tops, fraying into high balds of aronia, blue berries and pitch pine, which bend like sentinels over the lush valley below.
Beyond swimming and s’more making, I spent a lot of time keying out plants and generally falling in love again with the flora of PA. It’s always such an amazing experience to return to a place that was so familiar with the ability to see an ever richer array of subtleties, diversity, and layer upon layer of life. It’s like treasuring a fan for years and then one day discovering it opens.
Does our birthplace imprint upon us some sort of indelible seal? Like the exact position of the stars the moment we are born, do the shade of the trees outside our childhood home cast an irremovable net across our understanding of the world? Do the flowers that bloom, without fail, every season of our early years define how we appreciate the blossoming of the world? Do the chambers of the wasp nests on the edge of sheds or fire escapes translate into the catacombs of meaning through which we categorize the world? I wonder, always. My last night at Rickett’s Glen I swam out to the middle of the lake and watched the stars as they watched us. The water was purple and gray like stone, the small shells of the waves flickering like abalone. There was no moon, only light. I felt as blissful as a baby cradled and let myself be carried home.