We were sitting last week around a warm crackling campfire less than 30 feet from the calm blue waters of Lake George, surrounded by those majestic and lush green-covered mountains that help make up …
We were sitting last week around a warm crackling campfire less than 30 feet from the calm blue waters of Lake George, surrounded by those majestic and lush green-covered mountains that help make up the awesome beauty of the Adirondacks.
It’s a place I cherish visiting every year, feeling blessed to gaze upon one of nature’s greatest gifts.
I blame the fresh night air for my increased appetite as I toast a fourth — maybe it’s my fifth — marshmallow in preparation for yet another s’more. Bonnie likes to tease the fire with her marshmallow, getting just close enough to the flames to scorch its surface, turning the marshmallow a light golden brown before it lands on the layer of chocolate. I, on the other hand, park my marshmallow in the heart of the fire until the outside coat isn’t auburn but ash. That baby’s ready to be a s’more.
As I am ready to bite into the waiting delicacy, a stranger sitting on the opposite side of the flames asks where we’re from.
“We live in the Catskills. Sullivan County. You know, near Monticello and Liberty, where they used to have all the hotels. Like Dirty Dancing or the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. ”
It’s my standard GPS answer.
The stranger seems genuinely shocked.
“You live in the Catskills and you come up here?”
Now, I’m shocked.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Because the Catskills are beautiful.”
I suddenly found myself having to defend leaving the Catskills for the Adirondacks.
“I know it’s beautiful. I live there. But, what, don’t you think this here is beautiful?” I ask, pointing across the lake to the brilliant, breathtaking view, past Long Island — not that Long Island, but the island smack in the middle of that incredible 32-mile long body of water.
This place is surrounded by mountains. Are they all the Adirondacks? Who am I, Rand McNally? Maybe it’s all the Adirondacks. Maybe it’s the Green Mountains of Vermont. Does it really matter? It’s gorgeous.
“Don’t you think it’s gorgeous?” I ask the stranger.
“It is, but I’m just kinda used to it. I lived here all my life.”
And that’s the rub about the places we call home.
The places where we live.
If we’re lucky, we like where we live. If we’re really lucky, we love it. Not always. No one can be that lucky.
Or maybe they are and just don’t know it.
I loved growing up in Brooklyn. I’m sure there were probably better places to live. It’s not like my parents gave me a choice. Looking back, I’m glad they didn’t. But I’m also glad when summer came we got out of the city. I loved my summers in the Catskills. Still do.
So do hundreds of thousands.
I suspect they come here for the same reason folks more than a century ago came here: cool night air, crystal blue waters and majestic mountains.
It’s a really beautiful place.
Oh, not in every nook and cranny. It’s not perfect here — but it’s not perfect anywhere.
What, you don’t think there’s blight in Bali? Vermin in Venice? Schmutz in Santorini?
So if I love the air, the water and the mountains of Sullivan in the summer so much, why do I leave it for the air, water and mountains of Lake George?
Same reason why Tahitians leave Tahiti to be tourists in Tennessee. We all need to get away. Even from places that most of us would kill to call home.
I think most of us treasure the opportunities we have to get away. But I think, at times, we need to put some value on how lucky we are to return to this place we call home.
Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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