Friday, March 21, 2008

The Place Where I Grew Up

A brief description of my hometown:

Kutztown lies in a valley running east to west between low parallel ridges, among fertile knolls and Mennonite farms. My parents live on the nameless northern ridge. Their home faces south, and looks out across the fields and scattered houses towards Topton, situated six miles in the distance along the base of South Mountain, midway along this southern ridge’s course from Allentown to Reading.

Not much justifies this poor attempt at poetics. Words often escape me to describe the peace I feel among the woods and fields of this small valley, the eastern limit of the Appalachians before the earth slopes downward through the Piedmont and to the coastal plain. People are often bound to their most familiar place, so my comfort is neither unique nor noteworthy. The words are with me, so I might as well write them.

Each time I return in order to visit family and friends, the lens of experience shrinks my hometown and its surroundings. Not much changes except for the steady encroachment of suburban sprawl and its attendant hassles and conveniences, but development merely creeps forward. There are no explosions or booms. The setting that I remember occupies a smaller physical space with the construction of each new house. It occupies a smaller space relative to my own experiences, as well.

My mother and I take brisk walks across the hills, and my recent adjustment to Midwestern flatness leaves me winded after a few miles. As I traverse this shrinking countryside of immoderate familiarity, I feel the landcape’s contours as if running my fingertips over a most detailed relief map. Although the locale shrinks, visits become increasingly vivid and produce greater appreciation. Light freezing rain falls in the woods, dried leaves crunch under my heels, and the odd whitetail bounds out of sight. Cars more frequently zip past on the narrow, winding roads. Shadows cast by a bright moon wave goodbye, and I feel refreshed and a bigger man.

I promise this will be my only baffling and impenetrable posting.


Steve said...

Hey Justin, I thought that was pretty poetic! Sorry I missed you on your visit home; hope to catch you next time. Good luck on the balance of your semester and Happy Easter!

Justin Leiby said...

Thanks, Steve! Perhaps another pilgrimage to the Yuengling Brewery will be in order somewhere down the road.