August 13, 2008: Personal anchors should be protected

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To The Editor:
“You can’t know who you are until you know where you are.” — Wendell Berry
Five years ago, my husband and I came to the area looking for property for our retirement, and spent the night at the historic Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm Bed and Breakfast. We’d been captivated by the beauty of the area, its quaint villages and friendly people. Susan and Jim Kelly, proprietors of the B&B, suggested we take a ride up Bragg Hollow and check out the properties available.
People ask us why we don’t plan to retire in our own area, and why we’d consider relocating to a place that’s not so easy to live in.
“Well, easy isn’t always the best answer,” I reply. I come from a suburban town in Ocean County, NJ. A town quickly attaining “urban” status as the population continues to rise. Our town is easy to get to so people flocked there to buy cheaper homes, and still be able to commute to their city jobs. In time, more roads, bridges, and stores were needed to make living here easier. Thousands of acres of woods were flattened, pristine estuaries backfilled, and verdant meadows paved over to make our lives easier. Historic buildings were removed to make room for all this “improvement.”
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to having it “easy and convenient.”
For nearly every “improvement” and “convenience” there’s been a trade.
Our “improved” roads and bridges allow so much traffic, that my two-mile trip to the store takes 20 minutes. At night, the melodious sound of crickets blends with the drone of road noise, and the night sky reveals only the brightest stars, competing with that convenient shopping center’s parking lot lighting. Gone are the buildings that told the story of this place.
There is little sense of community in my town. People come to here to shop and use the services available, or to go to the beach. Many people live here of course, but most have no “sense of place.”
My town has lost its soul. It could be “Anytown, USA.” In an effort to make life easier, transportation faster, services more readily available, and increase tax revenues, we’ve lost the sense of “who and where” we are on Earth In the end, we’ve lost more than we’ve gained, and what we’ve lost cannot be replaced. It was sinisterly cumulative.
The Inn at Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm is an integral element of this area’s “soul”. For many months now, we’ve read about and listened to the passionate debate regarding the replacement of the Halcottsville Bridge, and how the current plan would affect the inn.
Surely, the original plans and “orders for steel” can be changed to allow for the necessary modifications that would replace the bridge and preserve the inn.
As a community, we need to decide what we want to keep as our “defining characteristics.” No, this isn’t easy.
Each trip to our cabin is marked by the passage over the Halcottsville bridge. As we pass the churning waterfall, I see the stately old inn framed by Lake Wawaka. It is one of my personal “anchors” to this place, with all its little eccentricities that make it so special.
I smile-and a little bit of my soul is restored.

Judith Millar,
Halcottsville