Friday, March 8, 2013

Reading about and remembering the Hudson River valley

Whenever I think about the state and town where I grew up—New York State and Tarrytown respectively, I feel blessed. Blessed to have grown up there, blessed to have the memories I have of growing up there. It’s perhaps hard to understand for those who have never moved from the place where they were born, but as I’ve gotten older, it is the positive recollections about the place of my birth that override the negative memories. I am beginning to forget the reasons why I wanted to move from it in the first place, especially when I visit Tarrytown in the summertime on my annual visits and walk along familiar streets in the baking heat, savoring my time there. Much of the town has changed since I was a child; in most cases for the better. It’s a prettier town than when I lived there. That seems to be generally true for many towns and cities, including Oslo. Oslo is a much prettier and nicer city now than when I moved here over twenty years ago. That is because there is more attention paid to urban planning and design—to how buildings, parks, and recreation areas look. The esthetic component attached to urban/suburban development and progress has become more important, and that’s positive.

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get out into the world at large and to explore it. And I’ve done so. I especially wanted to travel around Europe, and have visited many Western European countries during the past twenty years that I’ve lived in Norway. That wasn’t the reason I moved abroad, but it strikes me now that I was not at all averse to moving abroad when the opportunity to do so arose. I am perhaps a bit nostalgic these days for all things familiar from my youth, including my hometown, and that does not strike me as unusual after more than twenty years abroad. But what strikes me as most true is that the area where I grew up in New York State is beautiful; I am not remembering it wrong or seeing it through rose-colored glasses. The Hudson River Valley is lovely; likewise many of the small towns that have grown up along it and that are an indelible part of its landscape. I have traveled along most of the Hudson River by train, from Grand Central Station in Manhattan as far north as Poughkeepsie. It’s a beautiful relaxing ride, especially when you get out of the city area and into the suburbs; if you want to read more about it, here is a good link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_Line_(Metro-North).

So it won’t be surprising that I am recommending two books that I have so enjoyed perusing and that have stolen my heart with their beauty and warmth. Both of them are about the Hudson River and/or the towns along it—one is a book of photography, the other is a warm and lovely tribute to a small pub in the town of Garrison (across the river from the West Point military academy)—Guinan’s--and its owner Jim Guinan (who passed away in 2009). The first book is a book of photography published in 2006 that I recommend to many people who ask me about New York State and the area where I grew up; it is entitled The Hudson River: From Tear of the Clouds to Manhattan by Jake Rajs; you can find it on Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/ckb5f35 and on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/cjeeb8p. So much of the photography in this book is stunning; it is a collection of photos that portrays the Hudson River and the river towns and landscapes as they really are, in all seasons. The second book, published in 2006, is entitled Little Chapel on the River by Gwendolyn Bounds; it too can be found at Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/cqclprc and on Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/cl7xdyh. It was recommended to me by my friend Stef who read it and loved it; I share her sentiments. The author writes in a heartfelt style about her meeting with Jim Guinan, his family, and the patrons of the pub, all of whom have their individual stories to tell, and all of whom become her friends over time. If you’d like to see photos of Guinan’s pub, you can find them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gwendolynbounds/2050518523/in/photostream/. I never thought reading about a bar could be so interesting, or that it would make me want to visit it the next time I am in New York. Unfortunately, it closed its doors in 2008 and its owner passed away in 2009. I can relate to the author’s way of writing and to her attention to detail; but mostly I was glad to read about a place that connects me in some way to my first home—a Hudson River town in the state of New York. It brings me back to a time and a place that are close to my heart. Guinan’s pub was in Garrison, but it could have been in any of the small towns on the Hudson River, where the locals gather to drink a few beers after work in the evening and to shoot the breeze. As they used to say in the TV series Cheers—a ‘place where everyone knows your name’. That’s what this book manages to impart—the message that what counts in life is the connections we have to other people and how we deal with the people who grace our daily lives.

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