Saturday, September 13, 2008

Autumn Anniversary

(News-Herald, September 11) I’m not unaware of today’s date, the significance of this anniversary. I am. But I’m also aware that many real journalists and writers better than I will unleash a barrage of retrospective examination of Our Nation Today.

I don’t think I can add to that. But with each succeeding anniversary of that attack I find myself reflecting that despite the wars, the botched peace, the mis-steps and success, the changes in how we conduct ourselves as a country—despite (or because of) all that, I am still able to enjoy a fine life in a good place that remains undisturbed by much of the post-9/11 rubble. I live safely and comfortably in a beautiful corner of the continent.

Such reflection comes easily in the fall; if there is any better time in Venangoland than the fall, I don’t know what it could be. Winter weather is charming, but it would be a lot more charming if nobody had to go out in it. Spring is an ugly muddy mess. Summer is warm enough, but our heat always seems to come packaged with enough humidity to make mold and mildew grown on air. The best parts of summer are the ones that are like fall.

My favorite weather is shorts and sweatshirt weather. It’s comfy and cozy, nice weather for being active. But it can be easy to overlook the opportunities for fun while managing the excitement of a new school year, so I’m going to remind you of some of the things you should get out and do before things finally turn cold and ugly.

Do some local traveling. Tell the truth—you keep hearing about Foxburg and all the cool stuff that’s down there, but you haven’t gone yet. Check the schedule of performers for Lincoln Hall, or just head down to dine. What better time to be cruising through the hills and rivers than the fall?

And speaking of the river, you need to do that as well. One of the most beautiful resources we have, a massive park that we didn’t even have to build, the waterways of Venangoland are easily accessible and wonderfully enjoyable. Certainly basic safety precautions must be taken; the river deserves your respect as well as you’re appreciation.

My kayak is the best investment in entertainment, mental health and physical activity that I’ve ever made. Everybody should own one. And not only is it not too later to get out there this year, but fall waters are often the most tame and manageable (French Creek actually comes close to being a hiking path at this point). For someone just starting out, this is a great time to start learning the waters, and there are several easy and completely local trips that you can complete in just a few hours.

Equally accessible and rewarding is the network of bike trails. This time of year you don’t have to navigate swarms of bugs and the air is just cool enough to keep you from overheating. The trip south from Franklin takes you through some gorgeous wooded stretches (though I will admit that the old railroad tunnels get a bit on the frosty side as fall comes on).

On top of the usual pleasures of small town and country life, there are often new treats. Next weekend Oil City, Emlenton and Franklin will host a three-day festival of films by regional filmmakers and/or about regional subjects. The first two nights (Friday at the Crawford Center in Emlenton and Saturday at the Latonia in Oil City) will feature two different film line-ups. Viewers will choose the top films which will then go head to head at the Barrow in Franklin on Sunday. All three showings begin at 7:00 with a five dollar admission.

Who would ever have imagined that the region would have its own film festival? And yet here it comes.

There are other things to look forward to—not just Applefest in Franklin, but Oil City’s pumpkin festival.

We’ll be able to enjoy all of these things, these natural beauties and projects of our fellow Venangoland citizens, without a thought about our safety, without a worry about attacks, death, or destruction. Lots of folks will spend today considering the question of whether, seven years on, we are winning or losing. But if one measure of victory is the ability to enjoy the simple small pleasures of American life, victory must look a lot like Venangoland.

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