Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Crossing the Delaware

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, and this is my safe space. Come on in. Weep with me, or have a cup of tea. Extra credit if you admire the upholstery on my settee.

My three readers know that I grew up in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, out where you can throw a stone right across Maryland and into West Virginia. I spent a lot of time along the Potomac, and what a beautiful river it is. At this very moment it is much cleaner than it was when I was a kid, and much wildlife has returned to its shores.

Rivers are funny things. They can sometimes be forded on foot (I'm thinking of the upper Potomac) and yet they so often serve as boundaries. They separate states and nations. In our culture, they also separate mindsets.

In September I went home to Appalachia and took a long walk along the Potomac. I was on the Maryland side, which is a national park. But I couldn't help looking across to West Virginia, literally a stone's throw. I could see little vacation cottages and even hear snippets of conversation over the still water. I thought, for the 10,000th time, how wonderful it would be to retire to West Virginia and buy a little cottage along the Potomac.

Then I got in my car, and I was almost forced off the road, quite intentionally, by a monster truck carrying two males and flapping a Confederate flag. They flipped me the bird as they roared around me at a no-passing part of the road. My sin? Pretty sure it was the New Jersey tags on my car.

Look at this pretty stretch of river! It's not the Potomac. It's the Delaware. This is the Delaware Water Gap, and I beheld it for the first time last weekend. Yes, I live 100 miles from the Delaware Water Gap and have never been there. Boy, have I seen the error of my ways!

The Delaware River separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey. I've traversed it hundreds of times, riding the train between my home and Philadelphia. Never gave it a second thought, really.

It deserves a second thought.

Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I am intensely glad to live on the eastern bank of the Delaware River.

Gone, with the swoosh of a rebel flag from an over-sized pickup truck, is any last vestige of nostalgia I might have had for the homeland I have cherished all these years. Gone, with this presidential election, is any expectation that I could live among the generations of mountain people who have succeeded my grandparents and parents. I'm not painting with a broad brush in any glib way. This is painful to me. How can you do anything but mourn when a state that was created because of its anti-slavery population turns blood-red?

Well, one way is to embrace a whole new river. Like George Washington, I have crossed the Delaware triumphantly, and it turns out to be a swell waterway.

More about water in future posts. There will be future posts. Lots of them. Written and published on the eastern bank of the wet and wonderful Delaware River.


Maebius said...

I'm somehow reminded of a Buddah story I read once, long long ago, about how the young man tried many things, in his search for Enlightenment, from aussterity, to decadence, and settled, towards the end of hte story, by the River..... and there, found Himself.

Blessings, Anne. and welcome back to the BlogoSphere. I'm glad you
are here. :D

Stacy said...

I live in PA, about two hours from MD (my birth state) and I'm pretty sure those confederate flag flapping guys live on my road. Sigh.