During my trip to Amherst/Buffalo last week, I took a day to drive to Ithaca and visit my friend Amy, who I haven’t seen in many years. We met in seventh grade, and so in September will have known each other for 20 full years.
Seeing Amy again and spending the day with her was enough of a gift, but my trip rewarded me with so much more.
I lived in that part of the state most of my life. In high school, my friends and I often spent summer days wandering the Ithaca Commons. I still have a pair of earrings that I bought there when I was 16, and I love them as much today as I did the day I bought them. I attended the theater (movies and live plays) there, ate at wonderful restaurants and sometimes just drove through on my way to somewhere else.
What I never knew was that hidden behind a few houses right in the middle of the city was a beautiful oasis: Cascadilla Creek, which includes several waterfalls. Amy led me through a small park to view this incredible sight. Sitting across from the path we were on was a woman by a tree, meditating. And it was a place I could see myself sitting and communing with Nature and The Universe. By the time I left there, I could see myself moving back, enduring the long, cold winters just for the pleasure and privilege of having those few moments alone with a waterfall and a forest.
I never before drove from Buffalo to Ithaca or vice versa. I always drove into Elmira or Horseheads, which took me down the Thruway to Route 390 to Route 17 – all highway. The drive to Ithaca starts on the Thruway and ends up on 96, a two-lane road that winds through central New York farm country. I never drove that road before and it was a treat.
On my way home, I paid a little more attention to the scenery than on the way down. The site of a field full of sunflowers compelled me to pull my car to the side of the road and traipse across a trampled cornfield in tiny flip-flops and a sundress in order to get the perfect photograph of the field. I don’t know if it was perfect, but it certainly was close.
Even now, almost a week later, I can’t stop thinking about that place and I still want to move back. The idea of winter – mostly the length of the winter – still holds me back. But my main issue with the winter is having to go out in the cold and snow every day, back and forth to work and such. I think that if I can figure out a way that doesn’t require such travels, I will go back eventually. At least I will live there part of the year. The scenery is just too tempting.