I started life out in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA. (I understand that I was born on a farm, which might have something to do with why I seem to be the most outdoorsy person in my family.) We left PA (for MN) when I was ten, and I really don’t remember much about the first 10 years of my life in PA. I remember a car going over my leg when I was five (nothing broke, and no one believed me. It was one of those old Mercury cars with the cool rear window that went down). I remember mild winters with no more than 1-2 inches of snow, ever. I remember my dad parking an old Volvo on a hill and I remember that car’s engine bursting into flames. We had a huge hill in our backyard. I never thought much about the hills at that point in life. I walked up and down them to get to school or piano lessons. My dad took us hiking in them. We parked cars on them.
Then we moved to Minnesota. My brothers and I were teased about our “Pennsylvania accent,” even though the Minnesota accent is just as pronounced (only different). Suddenly, I learned all about -40 degree weather and wind chills. It was pretty bracing. I helped my brother deliver papers on his walking newspaper route, and on those cold mornings, my mother broke down and drove us to certain points so that we could come back to a warm car. And slowly, without realizing it, I got used to a flatter landscape. Not completely flat and free of trees like I’ve seen in North Dakota, for example, but pretty flat. I forgot about the hills and remained in MN for many years. I did not realize that hills sat dormant in my heart…until we moved to Vermont.
I did not expect to be so taken by the hills and the beauty in Vermont.
Certainly, I respect them, and I stress about them when I have to drive on them in the winter. But seeing hills and living among hills again awoke something deep in my psyche that I’d forgotten about.
How else to explain the silly thrill I get whenever I see a ridge line against a sky? Or the colors that the mountains take on in different lighting or weather? A new mountain view? The same mountain view, over and over? A hike that opens into a view. I’ve never enjoyed driving as much as I do, here. I know I’m not the only one. I had forgotten all about Pittsburgh. No place is perfect. Northern MN has its own different kind of beauty and its own special aspects. It’s hard to compare the two. I wonder if I would not have forgotten about the hills, had I not been pulled away from Pennsylvania so young.
I traveled to Pittsburgh twice in the last several years, and was surprised to notice how hilly and green it is. It’s a lot like where I live now, only of course, it’s different. All places have their nuances and history. The forests and plants are slightly different in Pittsburgh. But seeing those hills was enough to help me understand more about myself.
White Mountains ridge line on a cool fall hiking day.
Favorite VT hike with views of both VT and NH.