As I feel the Mediterranean warmth in your description of Cordoba last week, the autumnal nights have already arrived in eastern U.S. In place of orange groves and formal fountains are deciduous trees and dewy meadows. A few weeks ago I was fortunate to spend a few days at Meadowburn Farm, a place as secluded and rural as one can be near the border of New York State, and a slow rhythm replaced the maelstrom of my urban life. It is easy to see why the rural reaches of upstate New York and northern New Jersey inspired American transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Logan Bryant who discovered internal spirituality through communion with nature. Rural landscapes, like gardens, blur the distinction between man and nature – the glimpse of a pioneer tree sapling in a less browsed meadow hints at the stealth hand of nature poised to strike when our control is relinquished. In suburban developments, the houses and their surroundings often appear independent of one another as the houses are carbon copies and tight foundation plantings and tidy lawns subjugated. Such sameness seem less symptomatic of rural landscapes, and an early morning walk at the farm confirm the continual changes.
It was still dark when I pulled apart the curtains of my bedroom, but my feet felt the perceptible chill on the wooden floorboards. Swaddled with layers of warm clothing, I ventured outside to see the air heavy with mist and the light bravely breaking above the trees. Only the braying of the cows awakened and led to another pasture pierced the cold stillness of the scene.
The panicles of the timothy grass quivered animatedly, gilded with silver from the first morning rays and not trampled by livestock hooves.
Crossing the road and upwards the hill I started to notice more things – how oblique the angle of the wooden gate looked with the horizontal plane of the woodlands in the distance, but playing off the slope of another hill on the right.
The mist continued to seep in, washing out colors and giving an otherworldly feeling that I felt like an interloper who suddenly found an alternate realm.
Where the trees began to taper towards the field’s boundary on the opposite side, a portal could be glimpsed and compelled me to walk closer and closer to it. But something else diverted me from that route.
A white oak perfectly proportioned and not hemmed by neighboring trees had spread its branches out and wide like an arboreal monarch. I wondered how it had escaped the scythe of the agricultural machinery or the hungry livestock set to graze here.
Underneath its canopy, one could see its boughs furrowed with age and snaking directionless at every point. Not a leaf rustled in the still morning air, and for a moment I closed my eyes knowing full that a whole day still beckoned. The spirituality of being underneath the tree quietly biding its time season after season needed no words or no soundtrack.