The Burden of Beauty

Kelley's Journal

Who can say what leads us to certain points in our lives?  I am certainly no philosopher.  But when you need to make a change, sometimes you just know.  This is how I found myself a few years back, along with my husband, standing beside a two lane country road on an uncharacteristically steamy mid-September afternoon...

Over the course of that summer, we had driven hours and miles looking at country properties all over upstate New York.  Nothing was right.  We looked at rocky hillsides, virtual sand pits, knock-down-drag-out falling down old places.  It was enough to drive us mad.

But this day would be different.

The real estate agent led us through the waist-high grass, meadow bees buzzing around our ears.  "No one had looked at this place in so long", he told us. 

"Why was that?" we asked. 

"You'll see", he said.

We followed him under the tree canopy, and that's when we heard the roar.  He parted the dank green curtain of late summer vegetation to revel one of the most beautiful cascading streams I had ever seen.  Framed by verdant lushness, the stream roared along like a freight train, swollen to the gills by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, that howling bitch that laid waste to half of upstate New York and most of Vermont just the week before.  

My husband and I glanced wide-eyed at each other.  I giggle like a giddy schoolgirl.  "There's more", said the real estate agent with a knowing grin.  He walked away to give us a moment.

We stood breathless in the mosquito-infested brush, under the jade green canopy of trees, just staring at each other.  "Who would be selling this?" we asked ourselves incredulously.  "This cannot really be for sale", we insisted.  No, really.  This could not be for sale.  Yet it was.

After a few moments of this, we made an attempt to casually saunter over to where the real estate agent had planted himself.  "Ok, what's the catch?" we asked. 

"There is none", he replied. 

"But you said no one has looked at this land in so long."

 "Oh yes, that", he said.  "Well, truth be told a place like this kind of scares people off."

"That's ridiculous", we said.

"Oh, but it happens. I've seen it with my own eyes", he told us.  "There's a certain responsibility that comes with owning a place like this.  A responsibility to not screw it up, if you will.  Some people can't deal with that.  As a matter of fact, a lot of people can't deal with that.  They see it as a burden, and they can't handle the burden of the beauty of it", he explained.

I thought to myself this guy is either a zen master or one weird real estate salesman; yet something about the tone of his voice made his words ring true to me.  How many folks before us walked this same path down to this same stream?  And how many folks dashed their own dreams to death on these rocky banks because of their irrational fears?

The burden of beauty - what an interesting concept.  Perhaps we had discovered a deep truth about the world right here in this tiny corner of farm country from this strange little man.  What beautiful burdens do we carry with us and just as importantly, which ones do we not take on?  Which ones are worth the price and which ones aren't?  We were about to take a journey together to find out.  

We said yes, yes to the craziness of buying 50 acres out in the middle of nowhere.  It was 50 acres of beauty and hard work along with the crazy.  Besides that beautiful stream, we got some unimpenetrable fields and 30 years of underbrush growth for our trouble.  But the views down the Black Creek Valley were uninterrupted, like our dreams; and the pastoral setting we longed for was complete.  We now had our foothold in the Hills of Hebron.

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