I flew up to the western part of Virginia on Thursday. I was born in the Tidewater area but hold this part of the state in a special place in my memory too. During college I hiked through the mountains, rode horses, slept in pastures, and went to some great parties at some fine homes.
I am particularly fond of the beauty of the foothills of the Blue Ridge in the fall. Today and yesterday I drove along country roads where the leaves were changing. I saw hayfields being cut and others being raked for hay that is rolled into bales and covered with plastic. The fields are framed by black fences with the occasional rock borders. Vineyards dotted the countryside. It is breathtaking in an old colonial way that harkens to a time before there was urban sprawl.
My parents brought me to some fine old Virginia schools when I was a child. We toured Washinton and Lee, the University of Virginia, and Hampton-Sydney. I marveled at Robert E. Lee's horse, Traveler, whose hide was stuffed and enclosed in a glass case at the Lee Museum on the campus of Washington and Lee. I looked at the recumbent statue of the old General himself.
Later, I marveled at the incredible horses at some of the shows in Warrenton, Upperville, and Middleburg. I had crushes on several young horse women, and eventually made love for the first time near a lake on one of the farms in the area. We spent the entire weekend unclothed (or so it seemed), snuggling under sleeping bags at night. It was a time of great exploration in many ways.
So the area is filled with good memories. But nothing stays the same. Now some of the estates have been divided and developed with fake mansions in the hay fields. The main highways are lined with strip malls, fast food joints, hotels, and all the other evidence of modern times. The great battlefields of the Civil War are surrounded by sprawl. I couldn't help but think of the many remains that still lie in old graves or in the woods and fields and under pavement in the area. I wonder what my great grandfather would think if he could see the battlefields now. Would he be horrified or enthralled at the changes?
Now I am at the airport waiting to fly home. Virginia was my home and will remain a home in my memory. But the island where I live is now where my heart lies with its estuaries and marshes, dense subtropic woodlands, and soft humid air. I am looking forward to seeing my love, my animals, and my land.