I’m an Easterner. Having lived East of the Mississippi my entire life, I am used to many broad rivers laced with hundreds of creeks, lanes that wind along old Indian trails, mountains that prefer ice precipices rather than broad snowfields, broad-leafed oaks and maples and elms that turn vibrant colors in the fall painting a scene against the deep green firs behind them, seacoasts pulling a north wind nipping in the air even in August, lakes where the frigid cold layer hits the bottom of your feet in July, and houses that date back to 1680 and are so firmly built they will last another two hundred years. The riverbanks in the East are thick with lush vegetation and small wildlife, the fields swarm with game, and the lakes jump with fish unless some industry dumps its wastes into the streams.
However, I have traveled extensively in the West and I am always awestruck by the hugeness of the Western sky. I loved the majestic Rockies at Boulder, the sea otters and kelp at Monterey, the enchanted harbor and hills of San Francisco, the vastness of the Nevada desert, the great cactus gardens of Tucson, bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush of the Texas hill country, the amazing smell of freshness of Mount Shasta.
But of all the contrasts, it was at Bryce Canyon, in southern Utah, that taught me the most about East and West. Tucked high above the rock face of the canyon wall was a tiny tuft of grass serving as a bird’s nest. All around me was dryness and rock. A guide stated that water from the infrequent rainfalls seeped down through the rock taking hundreds of years to reach that little outpost of avian life form.
Up in Wyoming they told us it took five acres to support the water and feed needs for one cow.
With that statistic, I envisioned the broad Ohio River with its placid waters over twenty feet deep passing cornfields and hay fields and barns and houses and horses and cows, coons and possums, bear and deer and flooding over into nearby fields in the spring freshet.
And now I’m worried. The last three winters in Kentucky were extremely warm. Spring in both 2011 and 2012 were unseasonably hot, and the early summer has posted temperatures over 100 degrees for two weeks, I have become very nervous that our water-filled East was becoming like the West. Of course we think we have hundreds of years before we become a desert. Right now it is just steamy. We need snowfall like those wonderful two-foot snows in Connecticut, we need those old March rains in Cincinnati when it was raining when you left for school in the morning, raining when you came home and pouring down rain on the roof all night. We need summer lightning storms that save the corn and soybeans from damaging heat. We need the deep, deep soft snows of Vermont and Maine that start in late November and go through to April. We need to replenish the earth around our enormous cities.
What are your thoughts? Where do you live? Do you prefer living in the East, West or in the middle? Do you worry about the heat and drought of this summer?
Diane is my sister-in-law and a respected historian. She’s an expert on the undergound railroad in and around Kentucky and country stores in Kentucky. She recently appeared as a historian on the Syfy Channel’s Haunted Collection.