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Gary Horton: So what if there are mosquitoes?

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: June 1, 2010 4:32 p.m.
Updated: June 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Christopher, my 28-year-old son, kneels with his back to me as he carefully arranges logs, and lights the fire in the big iron stove in his living room.

We’re sitting cozily on the sofa, basking in the warm glow only a fire can provide. Warmth, comfort and congenial ambiance.

We’ve returned this evening from the first day of Chris’ graduation ceremonies at Cornell University.

Speeches, parties — and long goodbyes to college friends.

Some will stay close forever, and others are sure to be lost on Facebook or otherwise fade as life moves on.

One college relationship, however, certainly won’t fade. Chris met his wife, Trish, in New York, prior to starting at Cornell.

They dated, grew close, moved to Ithaca and married about this time last year.

One month ago, they bought the country home we’re enjoying.

As I write, I’m sitting on an Adirondack chair in their shady garden, alongside a vast meadow to my left and the sun coming up over the forested ridge to my right.

We’re cloistered deep in nature in the central New York-state farm belt, nestled on 5 acres of what used to be a farm but which nature has reclaimed to a beautiful scene.

Nature’s life force is strong in central New York. If you don’t mow the lawn, cut weeds or trim the trees, soon all trace of roads and homes will be hidden again in nature herself as she pushes back against encroachment.

Lawn tractors are big. So too, are John Deere hats, four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and too many deer.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, we think deer are cute. Ithaca residents consider them large rodents.

Chris has accustomed himself to gathering and splitting wood and keeping up the stove.

The house has electrical heating, but it’s far too expensive compared to the free wood abounding.

Yes, it looks like more trouble, but it also seems recreationally comforting, and chopping and hoisting wood provides some of that good exercise we too often miss here in the suburbs.

At an age seemingly unfair to me and perhaps to many, Chris and Trish have found vacation in everyday life.

It’s slow country living, carefully positioned close enough to town for short country commutes to her law profession and his landscape architecture job.

How did this slow-lane life come from our boy, who is a true son of Santa Clarita suburbia?

Chris was SoCal through and through — Warriors football, Hart volleyball and a beach and mountain kid in a Jeep.

Perhaps he kept John Boston’s country-ish columns under his pillow, and we didn’t notice?

Maybe he just saw how hard and fast dad had to work to keep the hamster wheel turning, the lights turned on and the Joneses kept up with?

Or maybe we just all find our own eventual way, and this SCV son lucked out early on, finding his resonance in calmness nestled within a slower-paced life.

I couldn’t fully understand his transition until this visit. In Santa Clarita, most of us know and love to “go, go, go.”

Deadlines and commitments. Deals to get done and the next job or gadget to sell.

Commutes to the day’s work at the shop or behind the counter. We work hard and fast and most of us too eagerly chase after the next house, the next car, the next iPad — anything new to keep our heads and hearts in the game.

There are carrots dangling out there, and we’re Pavlov’s dogs, jumping at the stimulation as we spin our hamster wheels with materialist fervor forever.

Trish and Chris work hard, without doubt. And they paid their dues early, both having quickly completed undergraduate and master’s programs in their fields with an eye to what they wanted in life.

They work their jobs and build careers with full commitment.

But their education investment early on allows them now to choose their lifestyle — the where, how and when of what they want to do.

They choose to live calmly and methodically, chasing not so much after things, but peace. Walks with the dog through the forest. Slow dinners by the fire.

A warm hearth in a country home. Friends chatting in a wooded garden. And a conservatively secure life on their terms.

Central New York didn’t get hit with the housing crash we saw in the western states.

Houses were never flipped like pancakes for profit.

Houses here have just been slow and steady, viewed as shelter instead of speculative investment.

Real estate may be a metaphor for life here.

Not fast, not glam — just slow, steady and sane, today and tomorrow.

I didn’t understand life in the slow lane before our visit to Ithaca.

This morning, with the puppy cozily curled on a bench beside me, sunrise tipping over lush forest tree tops and birds singing songs I’ve never heard before, I realized I may never move here, but I’ll certainly want to visit — often.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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