• Susan Byers

Endings & Beginnings


Fall is finally coming to Upstate New York. A couple of nights ago, the temperatures finally dipped into the 40s. We awoke to thick fog and cool, damp air. On our morning walk, in a world softened by the fog, we found intricate spider webs, previously unnoticed, sparkling with dew.



Other, denser webs, were suddenly everywhere; a dozen occupied one stretch of road 30 yards long, a hidden community of cousins. By afternoon, they were once again invisible.



Summer lingered this year, long past when it should have. In a part of the country where 90 degree weather normally lasts a couple of unwelcome weeks, the heat has lasted for months, only cooling in early September. This is the coolest it has been since we came up in late July. But while we have wished the heat gone, the wildflowers have loved it.


Queen Anne’s Lace, chicory and myriad other blooms persist along the roadsides. A second crop of Queen Anne’s Lace blooms tiny and delicate.


Lavender asters billow in a shady spot (I wish you could see their lovely, soft color).


The goldenrod is glorious, lush and everywhere. As the weather suddenly cooled, our world changed. Fields of soybeans, mostly green, went mostly gold overnight.


Tiny yellow blooms dance on stems gone red while we slept.


The wind picked up, ruffling the grasses and flowers along our walk. Everywhere is rich texture. It is a glorious landscape we walk through every morning.


Just before we arrived, a pair of mourning doves laid a late clutch of eggs in the tree just outside our door. For two weeks, we watched in anticipation (how can a complete being develop in just two weeks?!). They finally hatched about a week ago, and seem to nearly double in size each day. As the weather cools, they are ready to fledge ...


Any day now, they will leave the nest and become earthbound, as it will be several days before they can fly. We will watch anxiously until they do. We are invested in their survival, unofficial grandparents. The year is drawing to a close just as their lives are beginning, and we worry that they will not survive those first few days on the ground, or the cold winter ahead.


They inhabit a beautiful world. The deeply undulating hills, lush with crops and wildflowers, defined by stretches of woods, are enchanting; the views feed the soul as we drive into town from camp, instilling contentment. It is these views--as well as friends--that drew us here … and soon, we will be bound to this land.



On Monday, we will close on the house on Beef Street. Probably the first house built on the street, at least parts of it date to 1832; it has been renovated and added to over the nearly two centuries it has stood on its hill. The farm it long anchored was called Windy Acres; now there is just one windy acre, the rest of the land divided among members of the last family to own it, but it is plenty. And now it will anchor us.


It’s bittersweet, this buying of a house. The dream we worked so long for--to travel the country, visiting family and friends along the way, being free of responsibility beyond our cottage-on-wheels for a couple of years, maybe longer--it’s a dream we decided we had to let go. The pandemic made travel too risky for people our ages. I know others continue to travel, and to visit, but there are risks we are unwilling to take. Too many people in the states we have yet to travel scoff at science, ignore warnings, and continue to gather without masks or distancing, and the pandemic continues to needlessly spread its devastation. Before the week is out, we will mark 200,000 Americans dead, and countless others injured for life; we do not want to join those numbers. So travel can wait for a vaccine, for science to learn more about this virus. We will still go adventuring, a few weeks or months at a time. And we have a lovely and unique second home to show for our efforts. But we will not have again the freedom we enjoyed for the first nine months, of belonging nowhere and everywhere. Now, we will belong to this place.



These last weeks, I have spent countless hours planning how we will transform this house, scanning the Internet for tile, faucets, appliances, paint, fabric, furniture and ideas. I’ve learned about plants that live up here; we’ll have multiple gardens. I’ve learned far more about septic systems than I ever wanted (thankfully, the entire system was replaced about five years ago, so we should not have to worry about it). I’m learning about chickens (we’d like to have a few). It’s a huge new project to delve into, one that will keep us both occupied for … well, for most of the rest of our lives. But we will make time to travel, to hitch up our rolling cottage and visit the places and people we still long to see. We’ll be there when it’s safe to hug the ones we love again, to sit around a table and talk long into the night, to make new memories. And when we’re home, we hope our guest rooms will be often occupied. We were not ready to give up our dream, but now we are embracing a new one: Home.



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