. . . At Home

sangers w viewHas your blog developed the way you thought it would?

When I started writing, I intended the emphasis to be on “loving hands” but, now, almost 18 months later, I’m amazed at how often I focus on the “at home” part of my title.

By sharing some information and impressions with you, I’ve realized that I have more affection for my home region than I ever knew!

People hear “New York” and they think “Big Apple,” Empire State Building, Broadway. My New York, the “North Country,” couldn’t be more different.

My home is in upstate New York, about 60 miles south of Montreal, Quebec, and 45 miles east of Lake Placid, where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games were held. The nearby town is Plattsburgh, represented by the back dot in the map. I have to drive due south for over 5 hours to get to New York City, which is at the bottom right here!

New York

I live on a lake that forms the boundary between upstate New York and Vermont; Lake Champlain is 120 miles long and runs north into the Richilieu River and the St. Lawrence.465px-Champlainmap.svg

The lake is in a valley between the mellow, old Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont, which are part of the Appalachian Chain.

Our combination of water and mountains, rural farmlands and small towns, makes this part of New York feel much more like New England than like the New York that pops into most minds.

This is a land of sugar maples, oaks, birches, and pine trees, which give us our fall colors, the fragrant litter of pine needles in the sun, and the “tock, tock” of acorns on the roof.

This is a world where French-Canadian roots run deep and the map is littered with place names like Point au Roche and the Boquet River (although the latter, strangely, is pronounced “Bow-ket.” I’m told the old-timers called it the Bow-qwet.) One’s friends have names like Benoit Lafave and Andre Delorme and, when they swear, they say “Sacré bleu!” or, even better, “Jeezum crow!”

Similarly, one can never forget the Native American inhabitants, the Ganienkeh, the Awkwesasne, the Abenaki. Words from their languages name mountains, rivers, and towns. Even “Adirondack” is supposedly a Mohawk word used to insult the Algonquins. The word translates as “bark eater” or “eater of trees,” and was an insult to suggest the Algonquins were not very good hunters!

The history of European settlement of this region is very old, by American standards. Samuel de Champlain reached the Champlain Valley in 1609. The region was under French rule, then British rule, and then played a role in the outcome of the Revolutionary War.

My people came here in the late 1700s and carved a farm from the rocky soil on a big hill overlooking the lake. They fought in the American Revolution and watched from the hill as the Battle of Plattsburgh, in the War of 1812, unfolded in the valley below. The photo at the top of the post shows my family, when we were still living on the farm, with that valley and Lake Champlain behind us.

War and national defense have always figured prominently here. When I was a kid, Plattsburgh was home to a Strategic Air Command base of the US Air Force. Fighter bombers and huge cargo planes were so commonly above our heads that we simply no longer heard the infernal noise they made.

I moved away from this area when I was in my early 20s, to go to grad school and to teach college elsewhere.

But I never really left. The lake and the mountains and my family always drew me back. Every summer of my adult life has been spent here, on Lake Champlain, at “camp.”

And now “camp” is home.

It was odd to come back here full time, after so many years. I’m forever meeting people who worked with my father or had my mother as a teacher in first grade. My favorite story came from a woman who lives down the road. When she heard my name, she told me that her father and my grandfather shared tractor tires during the Great Depression. Tires were expensive! So, even though the farms were about 12 miles apart, they alternated the tires between the two tractors and made do.

I love that story. I love feeling connected to a place, knowing the short cuts to get anywhere, recognizing names, and being able to say, “that’s where I lived,” “I learned to ski there,” “I think we went to high school together.”

I’m honestly not sure how much of this I would ever have pondered, if I wasn’t writing to you. Writing about where I live, telling you about it, makes me appreciate it more.

Thank you for that.

What makes your home special? Have you written about it? Can you leave me a link to your post?

64 thoughts on “. . . At Home

  1. Ah….such a lovely post to read before I scamper off to bed. Although I haven’t been as far as your area, I remember being incredibly surprised by the beauty of NY State when I first encountered it in 1977. Jeezum Crow must be a cousin of the Australian expression , Stone the Crows. This is my post on home. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/still-floundering-after-all-these-years/#comments I am less sure footed than you. 😦

  2. I’ve only ever visited your part of the world once. We drove across the Hero Islands (stopping on North Hero for Sunday brunch) then down along the lake before crossing back into Vermont on a ferry. It was a fantastic day… I really do understand your connection to such a beautiful land.

    • You really were in my part of the world–I’ve ridden my bicycle to North Hero! And I’ve ridden that ferry all my life–it’s a part of life here. Its so fun to know you’ve been here!

  3. I did not know that about you–that where you live is so unique and also connected to your childhood. Makes sense, though, especially knowing what you do in your “spare time.” So much space for all that crafting! 🙂

  4. Kerry, I didn’t realize this was where you were in New York. Here are my memories of your area. We took a trip to Burlington once and took the ferry (or was it a boat?) over to New York. We visited Plattsburgh and had dinner at some fabulous old inn. Why do I recall something about Adirondack chairs? And on this trip we visited Ausable Chasm (sp.?) I thoroughly enjoyed that little trip to your neck of the woods which is just spectacularly beautiful.

    To answer your other question, I find I write almost nothing about what I thought I’d write when I started my blog. It’s evolved in a completely different direction than I could ever have predicted.

  5. Lovely and informative piece. My blog has evolved over the two years since I began, too. Initially, I thought I’d write about midlife and yoga and yet I’m writing more about memories and everyday things which my readers tell me they like best. Although I did not return to my childhood town, I’ve written about it on my blog (Where I’m From, The Front Porch, My Father’s Hands and more noted in the Memoir category).

    • I like the direction you’ve chosen, Joyce, and I suspect it’s easier for a lot of us to relate to than a closer focus on yoga. I’ve enjoyed your posts about your home . . .

  6. What a fabulously informative post about your return home, your family roots, and the roots of others in your region. I love stories that combine the personal with the bigger picture and you’ve done a great job of it here. Well done.

    • Thanks, Cynthia! One of my main rules for my blog writing (since you wrote about your rules recently) is to try and be reader-centered. Even when I write about myself, I’m always trying to think of ways to engage my readers. Sometimes I’m not so successful, I fear, but I’m always trying!

  7. What a great post. Thanks so much for giving a bit of background to your area, which I felt I was begiining to know and appreciate through the medium of your posts. I envy you your connectedness, as my life has been one of moving around, albeit mainly in the UK. I love the fact that I am now only a few miles now from the places where I spent my early years, and relish the memories that spring forth, unbidden. And you’re right. For me too, writing my blog helps me to appreciate what I have.

    • I’ve gotten such a good sense of your region since I’ve started reading your posts! Your connection to place inspires me–I can tell how much you love the places you’ve lived.

  8. I loved reading this post Kerry! Getting an idea of the geography, the history, the people and the difference between NYC and the state of New York. I think connection to a place is a wonderful thing, knowing you have that connection is a wonderful gift!

    I have been a gypsy and am not deeply connected to any particular place except the the need to live near the sea and preferably within sight of it. I lived in the UK for a few years in the late eighties – early nineties and discovered while there that I was deeply attached to my home land and needed to stand on her soil and breathe her air and be in her light to be healthy and strong. That was interesting to discover. My country is so small in comparison to yours that anywhere within this country will do for me. Although,for me the preference would definitely be the further from a city the better. And as that is exactly where I ended up, in a city, I have had a two year inner journey to come to terms with that particular twist in my story and to make this place my home. Life is such an interesting adventure!

    • You know, it’s funny. When I lived in a city, all I wanted was to live in the country. Now that I live in the country, I yearn for cities very often! If only I were rich enough to have two homes! But, you’ve discovered the real solution–bloom where you are planted.

  9. You live in a beautiful place. (I hope you’re surviving the snow!) And yes, I think that blogging is an ideal medium through which one can become more aware of one’s surroundings, and the changing seasons, etc. I know I’ve thought more about our landscape here, the cherry-growing heritage of the area, our local ancient hill fort, etc.
    And I love reading equivalent posts on other people’s blogs. Please, keep yours coming!

    • Thanks for asking about our weather, Phil–the good news is that the snow never made it to our house! We have weirdly little snow for the winter but there’s still lots of winter left. I love reading your posts about where you live–the age of the buildings and the history are simply stunning to US upstarts!

  10. Many years ago, I visited Montreal. So that’s the closest I have been to your area. My blog is soon to be one year old and I have no idea what direction I am going 😀

  11. Thanks for sharing! I don’t have any roots, my dad likes to move. Changing schools nearly every year. Learning an extra language along the way. And even though I’ve lived here now for going on 13 years, longest anywhere, I could move again if it was an improvement. Not just to do it though.

    • I’m actually kind of surprised by my return to my roots. I wonder if you’d really miss your current home, if you had to move away–sometimes we don’t know until it’s gone . . .

  12. Wow. I love this pots, very informative. I have not visited this part of the world. Native American inhabitants: the Ganienkeh, the Awkwesasne, the Abenaki, I have not heard or read about them although I have read plenty of Native Americans in my childhood and youth. Someday I would love to meet somebody presenting Native American. I have made about post about Native American life. If interested, I’ll give my link.

  13. What a neat blog about the history of that area and your family’s history in it. I’ve thought about the content of my blog as well. I originally had a traffic category, which has a couple things in it, but I gravitate toward gardening, food issues, garden design. Looking at the posts as a whole, though, I’ve noticed a theme of beauty, where it is, how to look for it, how to see it. I am not rooted the way you are, but I think I carry some of the same things with me that you talk of. I wrote about them in this post: https://arlingwords.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/we-all-have-a-river/
    Am also excited to explore all the other links you got!

    • Just read your post–loved it! It’s interesting that it seems to be the presence of water that is meaningful to you. I lived near Lake Champlain for so many years and never paid it any attention. Now I can’t imagine being away from it.

  14. You live in a beautiful part of the world Kerry 🙂 My younger daughter stayed in that area (I believe it was near Saratoga) when she visited her then boyfriend’s family and the photos she took there were gorgeous. When I started my blog it was with the intention of writing about my travels back to Europe as many friends had been asking for travel advice. Then I realised that people might be interested in posts about my adopted home of Perth, Western Australia so I threw that into the mix and found readers were interested which is good to know as it widens the scope of my blog posts! I also realise looking at my posts what a lovely part of the world I’m fortunate enough to live in too! I have Perth posts categorised under Western Australia on my blog, Le Chic En Rose https://rosemarythomasblog.wordpress.com Very interesting post have a lovely weekend 😉

    • The area of New York from Saratoga due north is all beautiful. As you drive up the highway, the mountains get taller and the scenery gets wilder. The preservationists have done an excellent job of ensuring that the Adirondacks remain “forever wild.”

  15. Kerry what a great story, I am so happy you told all this. 1700!! What roots your people have in this area. We have traveled quite a lot in that area, it is so beautiful!!! Too bad I did not know you back then! Love the story indeed with grandfathers sharing tires. I am afraid my husband and I inherited the wandering feet of ancestors. His family have records in Alaska at around 1750 and after that all over America, Canada and The Netherlands. My name reveals that there are vikings up the family tree…Mr. Walker says, it explains a lot;0) Thank you for being such a wonderful storyteller! xoxox Johanan

  16. I agree that blogs take on a life of their own. And each year I have a book printed to save my thoughts. I feel like it’s a journal, which I have never been able to do, that “Dear Diary” thing never worked for me! (I also delete much of the older stuff as I don’t want to pay for more space!) One of the things I really like it for is planning a project. I am about to embark on a new idea and writing the blogs and photographing what I’m working on helps me think it through. Talking out loud, I guess. I’m so glad you found me as I like your thoughts! ;-D

    • That’s a great tradition, of dealing with your annual posts! I keep a personal journal, in addition to writing the blog, so I have to look two different places to see what was going on in my life at any given time. I do agree that writing about projects and problems is a way of thinking through the issues, and learning from past successes and failures.

  17. What a lovely post and a lovely part of the country. Honestly you make me want to catch a flight for a visit…but maybe in the Fall, when it is not quite so cold. Unbelievably I have never been to the state of New York so clearly I have lots of exploring left to do! I have traveled in the northeast, though, through Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine. After reading your article I clearly need to write something similar about my home state. I am a 5th generation Texas, and have only lived in this state (Dallas, Houston, and Austin). I consider Austin my hometown, since this is where I attended high school and the place I have once again made my home for the past 30 years.

    And my blog has also changed a lot since my first posts. I always read that you are “supposed” to only write about at most 3-4 topics that you are really familiar with. And as my blog also represents my business, I guess I should only be writing about pets and sewing. But like most people my life revolves around far more than that, and I don’t think my blog would adequately express who I am if I limited myself in that way. So I write about more things now – whether that’s right or wrong- and enjoy my writing so much more. I am especially enjoying writing about photography these days!

    • If you do travel to New York, fall is a most excellent time to do it! I would love to see you post about Texas. I’ve never really been there, except to fly into DFW. Like most Yankees, I suspect I have a lot of misconceptions about Texas–you could set me straight. I have heard a lot about Austin being a very hip place, though!

      And regarding what we’re “supposed” to do in our blogs–I personally like eclectic blogs best, where we get a real sense of the fullness of the author’s life–keep at it!

  18. Pingback: Where the Wild Things Are | Deep in the Heart of Textiles

    • I loved your post about the wild things–do more writing about Texas! New York State, during autumn and apple harvest, is hard to beat! If you ever decide to come, I have all kinds of opinions about what you’d want to see and do!

  19. Your neck of the woods sounds lovely. I appreciate seeing a map with your “spot”, now I understand even more! You live in such a historical area with deep roots.

    I love family history…I’m German and Scottish. I know on one side, my family fought in the Civil War…they were from Wisconsin. My Scottish roots go back pretty far but get lost in Pennsylvania. I need to do more research, another deep dive to find out more.

    I love that you moved back to “camp”. Camp sounds like such an interesting place! Thank you for sharing this great post!

    • My grandmother did most of the work on genealogy for at least her side of the family meant a great deal to her to be able to say that her people came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with “Governor Winthrop’s fleet.” I don’t know so much about the other strands. I keep thinking that at some point I’ll take the time, get focused, and sign up for Ancestry.com . . . but there are so many other things to do!

  20. I enjoy reading about and seeing pictures of your home surroundings.
    I’ve lived in the same neighborhood nearly all my life. I’ve had people come up to me in the grocery store who recognized me from first grade. It feels like living in a small town even while I’m actually living in a big city. I don’t write about the place I’m from on my blog; I’ve stuck with what I set out to do which is to showcase my needle arts projects.

    • I can never decide if I envy people who Iive where “everyone knows their name” or if I think it would be too much, with nosiness and gossip and all. And regarding our blogs–isn’t it nice we have such freedom here, to do what makes us happy?

  21. Q – Love this post! It touches on so many of our family points. My s-i-l and brother own a trailer outside of Saratoga which they use as a summer home. We were back there at the end of September to visit. What a totally lovely area. We went to that look out point up by Lake George and looked out to Vermont! We’ll be back out this year. Forget NYC, this is the most beautiful area, with all of the quiet back roads, lush greenery, and birds! I’d never seen the change of seasons before. Absolutely stunning!!! If it weren’t for the winter……..

    My husband is descended from French-Canadians, Lafond. His great-whatever-grandfather was one of the original settlers of New France. His g-g-grandfather was born in Vermont when the family kept crossing the border to get work. Joseph joined a Vermont unit and fought in the Civil War, he’s grave has a Union memorial plack by it. My husband’s brother is actually spending part time in Montreal where he is the lead architect for the hospital being built there – The largest in North America. So we’ve been up there to visit too.

    And, your post about Michigans! How did we not run across those? We travelled back to Buffalo (the Chargers were playing the Bills) and into Toronto. Now, I’ve had to add them on our list for this year’s visit. We did notice ten jillion Dunkin’ Donuts, which all closed back here in San Diego.

    • You DO have a ton of connections to my part of the world! We live about 2 hours due north of Saratoga and you need to come to this area, the so-called “North Country,” for Michigans. They seem to be very localized to this northeast corner of New York. To this day, though, my post about Michigans and how to make them is the post I’ve gotten the biggest response to!

      • Q – It’s all about the FOOD! BTW, in case you didn’t know there is the neatest second hand shop by Saratoga – Treasures. If you haven’t been there it’s great! Often has fiber stuff, old linens, and older tools. I bought a set of dan and the neatest old, wooden, wind instrument, It’s also by Shirley’s which served a great breakfast!

        This next fall is Ticonderoga and Vermont. 😎

  22. A heartfelt post and so beautifully written. I too love the tire sharing story and can imagine how grounding having all that family history in one place must be. Sadly, due to my parents divorcing when I was 4, much of my family history was lost. My Mother would allow no discussion of anything which had gone before, so anecdotes and memories were denied. But I grew up with my Grandmother who shared many tales of her childhood and I am so grateful to have and treasure those.
    It is interesting to consider whether we would be able to access our feelings about our roots and the tribes we come from unless we were provoked to write for our blogs. It concerns me that so much of what we feel and what makes us ‘us’ could remain dormant.
    Blogging has opened up my life and given me insight, not only into my own experiences, but into so many other’s as well. It is a privilege indeed to share in what you write.
    Thank you.

    • Sometimes, when I read your comments, I wish you had more time to really write your thoughts and feelings in your blog. While I LOVE your photos, you also have so much of value to say–it comes out clearly in the comments you write! And I agree about the idea that writing in my blog has given me access to a better sense of who I am and where I came from–it’s also sparked memories for and conversations with my mother and sister, since so much of what I write about is experience shared with them. Who knew, when we started blogging, that it would take on such meaning!?

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