On Wednesday (November 9th), I discovered why Marcellus area farmers from long ago decided to name it "Pleasant Valley Road." It was 7:30am and I was on my way to the Gethsemane Prayer Garden to perform some well-needed maintenance and autumn cleanup. The leaves in Central New York were well past their peak, but there was some color left on some of the more resilient plants. The thought went through my head, "Take the slower road, the one through Pleasant Valley." I hesitated at first, for I am known as one that makes the most of my time – I'm glad I turned.
Upon entry onto Pleasant Valley Road, the canopy of yellow-leafed maple trees immediately struck my eye. A few houses are there, surrounded by random plantings in a forest of tall stately trees. A torrential rainstorm had recently eroded a small stream that came out of the hill high above the road, revealing the magnificent force that must have been released by a sudden terror of quickly surging water. Thankfully, road crews had cleaned the rock and erosion debris from the road.
As I rounded the first curve, with the swamp to my right, I instantly knew that this was not to be a normal drive through a country road. A light fog created a fine mist which was illuminated by full sunlight from behind. The white fog wisps gave the swamp and surrounding forest an almost ethereal view, similar to the opening scene of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ only without the people and in daylight.
While I don't normally appreciate swampland, on Wednesday I saw the sun reflecting its rays on the tall swamp grass. The long, thin blades were no longer green as in summer, but had taken on a reddish tone. The sunlight, reflecting off the smooth grass, appeared as beads that sparkled as a flurry of many gems. I began to talk to myself, something I rarely do: "That is really, really special!"
It came as no surprise to me to see a lone Canada goose at the far edge of the swamp. I had traveled this road several times during the peak of the fall colors, each time what appeared to be this same silly goose that thought it owned the road. This time the goose was off more to the side, so I slowly passed by. At that point, I had already decreased my normally fast speed, thrilled with the scenes that I rarely take the time to enjoy.
As the car traversed out of the forest, I could see through the fog a field where a farmer had planted some grass; the farmer had harvested the grass, but the gently rolling field reminded me of days in my youth where I spontaneously ran through an area, exploring the joys that were to be found. I found myself musing, "Where have those days gone?"
Mr. Hess's barns and farm house soon came into sight. His pristine white home on the hill above the road overlooks his two barns and fields below. I remembered talking to this older man a few years past, before his wife departed this earth. He had a farmer's gentle way about him, kind of like the pleasant valley that he lives in. I said a brief prayer for him, knowing that it can be difficult for a man to live alone in a big place like that.
A car suddenly came up behind me; I pulled over so he could pass by. I was glad that there was no real traffic on this road. By the time I had ascended out of this six-mile journey through the valley, I saw two other cars; they were all in a hurry, for it was rush hour, and probably on their way to work.
A bit further down the road, I noticed the brilliant red leaves of a burning bush as it ornately decorated another home above the road. Then another house with a similar red burning bush; and then a third house with two large blood-red burning bushes planted side-by-side. The houses were separated by long stretches of lawn and small fields of brush; it probably was not intentional for each to have this same species. We had not had a killing frost and these shrubs seemed to make a poignant statement that fall was not done yet.
Before the two sharp turns in the road, some other wild shrubs came into view; some had yellow leaves, others were red. But behind them was another low-lying swamp area again with glimmering beads from the sunlight. The fog was very light, just enough to let me know that it was still morning. I marveled at how God would put all this potpourri of plant textures and colors and shapes into a seemingly random placement, and yet it ended up so incredibly beautiful.
As I passed the Cox's farm, I laughed to myself how each cow was headed east out of the barn, like a drove of classical music enthusiasts walking towards an outdoor symphony concert, some hoping to see the other enthusiasts in their large herd. I noticed how large their pasture land is, having a much larger head of cattle than I had expected. The valley floor is much wider here. "A perfect place for a farm," I thought to myself, "and what a joy it is to know this wonderful family." Again I said a brief prayer for them, knowing all the hours that Charlie spends to assist his 100-year-old father.
A ways beyond that, near the place where they make and sell maple syrup, is a large grove of beech trees. This time of year, the leaves are an orange-yellow-brown sort of color, and again most brilliant in the sunlight. These trees stood above the mist, so it was easy to see them. They appeared so strong and majestic as my car passed nearby.
I choose Cedarvale Road to climb out of the valley for it is to me the prettiest route. To those local to the area, this is known as "Thirteen Curves" as it follows the stream and steep banks. I noticed a fine collection of ferns along the east side at several of the curves, planted among years of leaf and plant material that has gathered there. Two small clusters of maiden-hair fern, possibly the prettiest of local ferns, grow in this heavily forested area with abundant shade and tremendous drainage. With their lovely arching spray of small but ornate leaves, I wondered if a maiden had actually selected this fern to wear on her wedding day.
At the top of the hill, I knew that I had to re-gather my thoughts to focus on my gardening efforts. The beauty that was evident in that valley was, at least to me, far more natural and pleasant than the man-made plantings of a more organized garden. God ordained that very special treat for me on that day. My prayer for you, dear Reader, is that He help you find your own "pleasant valley."
Please sing along with me:
"Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; how great Thou art ... "