Finding Piedmont Peace: A Brief Introduction

It takes about an hour to get here. Of course as a child I hopped into the car with little more than sneakers on my feet and a vague notion that I was supposed to have brought pajamas and clean underoos, and my concerns were limited only to the size and capacity of my bladder. When the lake came into view we bounced around and eventually tumbled out of the car, dizzy with travel vertigo and sweat and excitement. My dad’s stupid Irish Setter, Barney, paced and drooled and farted all over the station wagon, but even this couldn’t dampen our spirits.

Piedmont Lake
Wheeling is located along I-70 southwest of Pittsburgh. 

Aerial photo of the dam at Piedmont

In this lifetime, this adult lifetime, the travel hour is the easiest. The early part of the day will have seen me shopping for the weekend, and packing the food and the kids’ clothing, worrying about poison ivy cream and diarrhea medicine (the great blowout of June 2014), becoming more sour and more dour and hoping only to make it to the cabin without cursing at the children and Shawn (who, between the three of them, do more than their share of drooling and farting in the car). I’m the mom now, and it’s work to get back to nature. It’s an effort to create this childhood for Ben and Andy. So much so that I’ve lost touch with Piedmont Lake in recent years, so much so that I need to reconnect with something that’s as familiar as my own hands, as my own reflection. I’ve spent my lifetime in this cabin, summers and summers, and so it is with both ease and effort that I choose it for the location of this journal. Another location, a spot of old-growth forest to the south or a waterfall close to home would be simpler, and more foreign, and in so choosing this place I make more work for myself, because to know this place, this cabin in the woods, I’m going to have to do some real work, peel back the onion layers of my life here, forget the fights with that damn 9.9 horsepower motor, and the sunburns, and the spot on the couch where the dog fell so deeply asleep that she lost all bladder control. In a literal sense, I have to actually see the forest for the trees, to bring that wretched cliche to life.

For thirty-five years I’ve been coming to Piedmont Lake. I’ve never once come alone. I’ve never driven out in silence with only the excited pant of expectant dogs (how could I leave them behind?), and I’ve never walked to Dad’s frog pond by myself, or sat by The Magnificent Beech Tree (he borrowed a bit of A.A. Milne when I was 5) in silence. Always there have been parents, or partners, or children at my heels, in my ears. Always there have been conversations and thoughts and chatter and sighs and someone taking a leak on a tree.

It’s time to find the quiet part of Piedmont, by myself. It’s time to see it with eyes that aren’t peering out from the body of a child, or a mother.

This time, I find nature for myself. This time, I take the leaks.

Our first date in 2002, walking on the ice at Piedmont. My dad took the photo. Yeah, he was there on our first date. I figured, what the hell. If he doesn’t like my father and he doesn’t like my lake, he’s out. He ended up falling through the ice and spilling hot tea on his crotch.

The Y-chromosomes
Teaching Benjamin to fish when he was 2
Somebody tell the dog that it’s not polite to sit on the breakfast table.

2 Replies to “Finding Piedmont Peace: A Brief Introduction”

  1. Ah, underoos. Those were the days, eh? This place looks lovely (perfect for a first date!) I can totally relate to getting lost in the business of being a mom, so I am pleased to see that you will be undertaking this nature time, at a beloved place, on your own. I look forward to reading about your reconnection with Piedmont Lake over the next few months. (This is Amanda Champion- my writing/blog name is Amanda Jaros.)

  2. I'm the mom now, and it's work to get back to nature.

    I think that's true for a lot of people, but especially parents.Funny, our historical relationship with wildnerness included a growing class that had the leisure time and money to explore. Now we're all too busy and have to make time to *go to* nature. I'm excited by your choice of place and appreciate all your reflections on the context of what this place has meant. It will be so interesting to see how you relate to and engage with it this semester, in entirely new ways.

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