Quiet. Peaceful. A rarity. The natural pristine beauty of the valley cultivates a serenity of mind. It is a favorite of mine where I go to contemplate and let tensions evaporate. The peacefulness of the valley and fresh air are relief from the noxious odor of politics, the ego-centered pompous political bloviators, and the constant stir of news.
I drove the twelve miles on my motorcycle slowly through the quiet back roads, the soft rumble of the bike soothing away tensions of the week. I pulled the bike over and parked it under a tree by the road and sat on the shaded bench looking down the valley.
After doodling and writing a few phrases, I put my pen down and relaxed. I thought about the contrast between the valleys’ quiet, peaceful beauty and my boyhood home in blue collar Chicago with its noise, smokestacks, and smells. To this day, the pungent odor of the polluted air was always a marker that I was home. Until I moved to Wisconsin I didn’t know that air wasn’t supposed to smell.
A tall scruffy man with a gray ponytail sneaking out from behind his John Deere hat broke the quiet moment. I didn’t hear him walk up. He stood there studying the valley in silence.
“Quite a site, eh,” I commented.
“Yes … yes it is. I never get tired of it.” His eyes continued to slowly survey the land.
“Neither do I. I come here to sit … gives me perspective.“ I added.
“I love this place because it’s untouched by developers or big shots with money from New York, “ he said seriously. “Hope it stays that way.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean … My name’s George, what’s yours?”
“Walt. I walk down here almost every day – even in winter,” he replied. “That bike yours? Gotta be careful on those things.”
“ You got that right. That’s why I use the back roads.”
After a few minutes of small talk, I realized we were about the same vintage – both witnessed the man on the moon, Viet Nam, blue-collar factory jobs, and the turmoil of the drugs, sex and rock and roll years. Our families believed in hard work and the American Dream. As strangers connected by times past, we talked easily about those ‘old days’.
“I like the valley because it reminds me of how things used to be. Simple. Natural. What you see is what you get. Not so any more,” Walt lamented.
“Yeah, things have changed since those days. Even with the craziness of the war, people hitting the streets, and all the protests, it seemed people could have an impact.”
“I know. We lost a lot since then. Factories closed. Jobs gone. The little guy doesn’t have a chance anymore. If you get a job today, it’s for less money and no health or retirement benefits. Yeah. The game is rigged,” he said.
His eyes searched the wooded hills of the valley. “Today? Politicians from both parties don’t really give a shit. They’re both owned by special interests. They only pretend to care during election years. Hell, I wouldn’t want to have a beer with either one of them, even if they asked. The election ….”
“Get’s tiresome. I know… I know what you mean,” I interrupted. “It’s disgusting. I worry about my grandkids. I’m on the downhill slide of life. You know, we might have been raised in the best of times.”
“Yeah, I know. I come down here on my walks because it’s still like I remember it back then. Too bad … everything else isn’t. We seem lost,” he replied. “ Something’s missing. We got away from our principles.” He paused, turned and looked at me. “Well, I gotta go. Hope to see you around. We’re both dinosaurs, you know.”
Today the air may be cleaner, but the political inertia reeks. And maybe, it’s more poisonous than the factory smoke stacks of my childhood days. The corruption of ideals will do that.