There are not only stately pines, but fragile flowers which derive their nutriment from the crudest mass of peat. These remind us that not only for strength, but for beauty the poet must, from time to time, travel the loggers path and the Indians trail, (and) drink at some new and more bracing fountain.
- Henry David Thoreau
With excerpts from the journals of Henry David Thoreau by my side, and freshly stored memories of my recent trip to Maine in my head, I welcome you, dear reader, to travel with me to a part of the country you may not have seen before.
Wide-leaf trees, long-needle pines, and intermittent floral displays along the interstates of Georgia and South Carolina are commonplace. But natures beauty, whether harnessed by the imaginations of mankind or left undisturbed, becomes a virtual kaleidoscope impossible to confine to one configuration or one small section of earth alone. I had forgotten so much.
With South of the Border signs now in my rear-view mirror, I cross into North Carolina and enter a smorgasbord of color. Acres of yellows, reds and golds blanket the medians and cover the sloping earth by each overpass across the highway. Not just a token bouquet now and then, but profuse, floral carpets more brilliant than an artists palate line the travelers way.
Ah, the comfort of the road when crossing into Virginia. Miles of clover, their muted purple blossoms less conspicuous than the daylilies I leave behind, harmonize with the smoother surface of the highway. The Dominion State may have different priorities than her southern neighbor, or perhaps North Carolina is making do. Flowers cost less than new asphalt, and remove the travelers attention from the occasional bump in the road.
Mountains join the landscape in western Maryland, and serve as a welcome respite from the stress of increased traffic. Beauty or no beauty, however, after nine hours of driving I search for a room with a view, but settle for a no vacancy sign and a room with a bed.
Taller mountains line the horizon as I re-enter the highway and move north and east across Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. I marvel at the engineering it must have taken to cut interstate-wide roadways through the giant, granite cliffs on each side. Natures underpinning, mans convenience.
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine, the surroundings of my youth, are much as I left them years ago. Despite modernization, and the infrastructure to accommodate her rise in population, the forests are still thick, a great number of homes are still large and covered with white clapboards, and the water in her many lakes and streams is still blue.
To the observer, all the colors in the Northern palate are prominent and deep - not just any green but a melding of forest, lime, and emerald green; not a bland, colorless white but clear, soothing centerpieces framed by darker shades; not just any blue but a rippling mix of paint-chart hues reflecting the also blue skies overhead.
I barely have time to absorb Maines basic colors when, prompted by the Independence-Day season, I notice again the patriotic color scheme of Maines trees - deep red-leaf maples, stark white birch and softly-tinted blue spruce.
Reunions with family, friends and, this year, the classmates who left high school with me 50 years ago, are the real centerpiece of my journey. Yet, after living so long away from these lakes, mountains and trees, Im finding my reunion with this part of Gods creation calming, restorative and a reminder.
Here, where I lived so long ago, lies my underpinning for the years that followed, and are still to come.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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