Last weekend, my family drove about an hour out of the way to meet family for ice cream. We weren’t coming from home, so we took a different route than we were used to. Things were looking familiar until out of nowhere, a beautiful valley opened up revealing a farm that looked like it might as well have spawned off of a page of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Part of me thought I was dreaming. I was so stunned that I didn’t want to look away even to grab my phone to snag a photo. It seemed like something right out of a novel: had we entered a time-warp and gone back in history? After we descended a hill, the view disappeared, and I regained my senses. That’s when I saw a sign: Sky Meadows State Park.
According to the Sky Meadows website, the “1,864-acre park has scenic views, woodlands and the rolling pastures of a historic farm that captures the colonial through post-Civil War life of the Crooked Run Valley.” When I told my sister about it, she nodded. She had gone hiking there a few weeks earlier.
I recall an article in National Geographic about whether the “young” generation will find an interest in national parks. The article contends that younger generations don’t like the sense of isolation that nature often brings. They like to feel connected, to go somewhere social. For me, life is too social and connected. Driving in the car, we had one phone (and “phone” is now assumed to mean “cell phone,” whereas “land line” is used to specify an old-fashioned phone) navigating using the traffic app Waze to notify us of traffic obstacles and one phone in use to text our whereabouts to the other members of our party so we would all arrive at the ice cream shop at the same time.
When I saw the beauty of the historic farm, I felt that reaching for my phone, even to capture the moment on “film,” would somehow desecrate the experience. Phones and technology and cars and modern sounds seemed not to belong in the pastoral valley. I longed to scrap my plans for the day, get out of the car, and walk into the valley. I imagined what a person like Tess Durbeyfield might have experienced as she approached each new farm for employment. Without a phone for distraction, what details would she observe? Without an air-conditioned car, what scents would she smell? What sounds would she hear without the whooshing of cars along the highway?
It made me think of the cool comfort of summer grass between barefoot toes and the touch of dew on a summer morning.
It was a fleeting moment, but a quiet and poignant one. Reflecting back on the day, I don’t remember much about the texts I sent. I don’t remember what obstacles Waze announced were on the road. But I do remember that moment frozen in time when I gazed at the way things used to be.
On the way home, we decided to take a detour to try to capture the view. There was no pull-off to take a picture, but the barrage of signs that reminded drivers that there was no stopping, standing, or parking allowed made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who found beauty in the location.
Nonetheless, on the way home, I turned on my video camera function on my phone and hoped that a few of the frames would offer a screenshot that might capture some of the beauty of the spot. I’ll admit that the result does no justice to the valley–I had to crop out the guard rail and the “no stopping” signs from the road–, but it offers just a small glimpse.
Nonetheless, it was a moment I will remember for years to come, and a trip to Sky Meadows will certainly be in my future. For anyone afraid to “disconnect,” I encourage you to face your fears. You may just find the results refreshing.