I got lost finding my uncle and aunt’s house. Yes, it was that simple. I was going to visit my Uncle Mel and Aunt Joann, on my recent trip back to western Pennsylvania and I got lost. They live on a state route which connects Butler County and Beaver County, and I became confused because I could not recall the route number. There are, in that area of small towns, many such state routes.
Landmarks, which usually do not fail me, did not do me very much good. I knew that I needed to place the creek on my right. I also knew that the creek is named Conoquenessing, and that incidentally it is well supplied with trout.
But there are, in that area of green hills and plentiful water, many creeks, and they don’t post the names on the highway. I drove for 15 minutes down the wrong state route, with the wrong creek on my right, before I realized whose house I was headed to, and it wasn’t my aunt and uncle’s.
I think Conoquenessing is a Seneca Indian word for “looks just like the other creek.”
I had driven the road as recently as October 2010, but my dad was in the car and I didn’t have to worry about where I was going, simply had to drive. So I really did not pay attention.
By contrast, we did not get lost, my wife and I, when we ended up at her Uncle Leon and Aunt Marian’s house. Truth be told, it was not even where we set out to go. Truth be told, we did not set out to go anywhere. We were just walking, accompanied by no dogs and no children on bicycles, and I was carrying my walking stick with the carved wood duck head on it (these details are important).
We walked near their house, near enough to see that the door was open and the light on, so when Janice obviously wanted to go, but hesitated, I urged her into it. Leon is her dad’s brother, just as Melvin is my dad’s brother.
Needless to say, there is no creek on Leon and Marian’s right side.
The importance of family reemerges at certain times of the year. Obvious ones are Christmas, Thanksgiving and celebrations. Less obvious ones are times like this, often in late summer, when “visiting” happens.
I will now clarify why the wood duck is important. One of my very favorite, all time favorite, paintings is a simple portrayal of a wood duck preparing to lead ducklings out of their nest and into their first flight. For those who don’t know, wood ducks nest in tree holes, so the babies must be prepared to fly, or at least flutter, before they leave the nest.
We need each other. It’s as simple, and as complex, as that. No one of us is born into a vacuum, and I pity the one who exits the world in a vacuum, having cut off all relations and loved ones.
Take time, before summer ends. Drive there, or walk there, and try not to get lost on the way, but take time to stop and visit.