There are many things I love about my home state of Pennsylvania: Goldberger Peanut Chews, Unique pretzels and Lebanon bologna in the food category; 250-hundred-year-old stone farmhouses with tiger lilies blooming all around; drivers who actually understand what it means to yield when entering a limited-access highway. There’s one thing, however, that always produces an involuntary smile as soon as I arrive in Pennsylvania: the mountains.
I lived in Pennsylvania for my first 38 years, and I was always surrounded by mountains. I didn’t realize how much they were part of who I was until I moved to Minnesota 15 years ago. The flatness there, and now in Illinois where I’ve lived for the last 10 years, can sometimes be almost suffocating. And it’s not just the flatness. The variety of trees growing on Pennsylvania’s mountains ensures a most beautiful array of fall colors with the changing leaves.
Minnesota writer Paul Gruchow has said that “a home is the place in the present where one’s past and one’s future come together, the crossroads between history and heaven.” (Grassroots: The Universe of Home, Milkweed Editions 1995.) Gruchow writes about nostalgia, pointing out that in its Greek roots nostalgia literally means the return to home. It’s the clinical term for homesickness, he writes, “for the desire to be rooted in a place—to know clearly, that is, what time it is.” And here is the key for me: nostalgia recognizes the truth “that we cannot know where we are now unless we can remember where we have come from.”
Home for me now is here in Illinois, but I know that because I know where I have come from, and that is the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and all that they symbolize for me. And yes, there are times when I’m quite nostalgic about those mountains.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.