By Rena D’Andrea
My daughter bought a place in Andes, 17 acres, most of it covered in pine and headed for the sky. Occasionally we hear a car on the dirt covered road just above the house, but mostly there is the sound of the creek where it rushes to boulders, cascading and foaming with a roaring gasp.
Although the weeds in my own yard languish, I cannot wait to get back to her land to work. My husband mans a chain saw clearing a dead tree from the brook. We are captivated by and dedicated to the beauty around us.
There is no TV, no computer, no cell phone. I am once again living in Camp Ge-Wah-Na at Silver Lake. It is 1951 and the pine trees are majestic and water gleams in my mind’s eye. The place of my childhood in the Catskills an always potent memory, dictating the choices made throughout my life. Silently, I give thanks for my daughter and for her sensibilities that have led her to this spot. She has proved Thomas Wolfe wrong—I have come home again.
There are neighbors…architects of 30 acres, working their land, creating fabled gardens studded with perennial blooms and lush walks, as real as the earth they till, clad in their working boots and soft smiles. They are the builders of a fine home, still city sophisticates after so many years, but so involved in Andes, working for the good of their cherished place. And amazingly, beyond all comprehension, there is a couple up the dusty road: his father was my father’s doctor over 40 years ago. I am convinced of the magic here.
There is the town…the neighbors shop and dine, the streets are punctuated with laughter drifting from the hotel porch. The deli looks so familiar. Yes. I realize it is the old canteen of Camp Ge-Wah-Na.
Community Day now, and my daughter and I shop the yard sales, buy raffle tickets for the Andes Society for History and Culture and she wins a prize. At lunch we meet visitors and they become friends.
There is the landscape…we drive through undulating hills, small farms, their cattle poised in pasture land, and at a fence a wistful horse for whom my daughter already keeps sugar in her car. These are the hills of memory, the scents of childhood, the unencumbered of youth.
There is the history…this bucolic place once teeming with men disguised as Indians, fighting for land, committing murder in the days of the Anti-Rent War. Here is Dingle Hill, where Moses Earle had his farm and co-conspirators met to plot.
Unknown to my daughter, I have begun acquiring historic pieces for her, the first, a check written on David Ballantine’s private bank and a picture of the bank showing the spot where Frank Graham was shot by a robber on a late October day; the second, an 1877 check written on the First National Bank of Andes, engraved with a portrait of a young Victorian lady. More research ahead to learn the identities of the writer, the payee, and perhaps even the beautiful lady.
There is so much to do…my husband will try to fish before winter sets in. My son-in-law anticipates skiing at Bellaearye. My daughter wants to ride at a nearby farm. I want to read in the chair perched above the creek.
Will Thanksgiving and Christmas find us here? We all hope so. We want to toast the neighbors, open our gifts by the fire, give profound thanks for this refuge.
I was a child born and bred in Brooklyn, the heart of my world the neighborhood and the Brooklyn Dodgers. My summer at camp in the Catskills changed my life, instilling in me a love for pine forests and cool waters; for birds and above all, peace. Andes has given that to me again and while I am no longer young, I am younger than I have been in years. ~
This article first appeared in Catskill Country and is reprinted with permission of Decker Advertising, Inc.