oh, pennellville

it's nearly ten o'clock. barely as many degrees out. ruling the day are crystalline skies and sunshine. no hint of a breeze. even so, i bundle up: long underwear, jeans, wool sweater, scarf and hat. shearling boots, gloves, grayish puffy jacket. for the first time in a year, i pack my panasonic. i miss its reliable wide-angle capture. it catches more of the world. gives a different perspective.

calvin is at school, so i turn on my phone's ringer. then smellie and i drive to the point by way of pennellville road. not far from home, it has become one of my favorite places in the world. i park the car by the side of the road. with smellie off leash, she and i walk briskly in the cold. fists balled up in my pockets. squinching my toes back and forth to better make the blood flow.

unlike life, the terrain isn't difficult—no traffic. no obstacles. gentle slopes. roads are paved wide and flat and smooth. besides smellie, i'm all alone. the feeling is sensual and splendid, like when i used to travel solo far from home. a slim gravel margin runs between trench and road. i pause to study a frozen stream running from a culvert. treading tentatively to see if the ice is firm, i punch clear through. having grasped a nearby fencepost, i narrowly escape stepping into the frosty pool below. chuckling, i feel a bit like my former kid self. oh, to be so free again! oh, pennellville, to call you my own!

out here in the peace and quiet, sound travels as if on the backs of birds. out here, i can see bits of ocean kissing the horizon between stands of trees on a hill. out here, the sky is big and magnificent, like the west i ache for, love, and still think of as home. out here, it's like there's no care in the world. pennellville, you are my home away from home.

as i walk and frame and shoot, i think about the past two years—the damn pandemic; the fourteen months my son stayed home; the scores of seizures he has endured; the conversations about elections, insurrections, masks, vaccinations, conspiracy theories, religion and its pitfalls, the true meaning of virtue. i wax nostalgic about the drives we took. the friends i've made—and hope to make—along the way; the ones i've kept and the ones who long ago somehow became estranged. pennellville, i want to whisper you every name.

in all, the dog and i go four miles. nothing to write home about. still, it's the furthest i've roamed since taking calvin out of school for three weeks after some brushes with covid. luckily, he didn't get infected. my ankles and feet are slightly sore. i'm not used to these boots; still, i could return again tomorrow. could see something new from one day to another—icy bubbles; frozen grassy waterfalls; red berry boughs; stately, naked oaks; bald eagles; snowy owls; dog walkers in hiking boots and puffers; runners of all ilks clad in myriad colors, each with their own distinct gait. 

oh, pennellville, thank you for giving me the space and freedom i can't easily get in other ways, during my virtual and prolonged lockdown with calvin. thank you for your steadfast offering of sanctuary and repose. for your quiet attention and embrace. for your lack of judgement. for your unwavering charm and beauty, no matter the season or weather. for allowing me to look upon you unabashedly and ponder anything. to see myself reflected in your skies and trees, pools and meadows. for the room you so freely give me to see and dream and feel anew.


  1. beautifully written! you must accumulate these essays into a book! Promise?

  2. I love this piece. I can feel your sense of freedom.