Monday, April 23, 2012



FORSYTHIA AND PUSSY WILLOWS

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com
columnrule.blogspot.com


     Viola, N.Y. -- Spring was once famous in this small hamlet, its name now almost forgotten in the greater growth of suburban and partly urban Ramapo Town. Just 25 miles from New York City, this area of Rockland County was until the 1960s largely rural -- apple orchards and truck crop farming. The blossoms were extraordinary, and if Heaven could tempt with a preview, it did here.
     You also knew spring was coming when the forsythia bloomed at the foot of the old Almshouse property -- the county welfare and aged home and these days the site of a large community college. Though the area has changed so dramatically, if you look past the bustle,  you can still find the patch where yellow in annual brightness must have cheered some Almshouse residents at least. Even in Rockland Community College’s early days, 1962 or so, students in the library or in classrooms facing College Road could see the forsythia as well as the pussy willows favored by a particular friend who also liked cats. Now only the patch remains.
In the great scheme of things, and there always seems to be a scheme for anything, you could say who cares about some yellow flowers or furry catkins on twigs? Get with the program, man, you might admonish. Progress doesn’t have time to smell the flowers, right? Times change, and rural land and the farms that are kit and kin to them and once were to more of America simply must move aside for “Huggy Bear Estates” or that four-story, multi-family home, yes?  You can put a photo of the old forsythia above the mantle, for auld lang syne. The pussy willows can go in the umbrella stand in the two-story foyer.
You’ll never convince me, though, that progress should be a steamroller, that in the applaudable interest of perhaps providing better living through homes and backyards in suburbia, there isn’t a finish line when the dozers should cut their engines and we all say enough. I think the term for that is sensible planning, with the balancing of need and resource, infrastructure and costs so that quality of life, which was sought after in the first place when the suburbs began, is supported not by relentless growth but by limits on it. 
Maybe then the small patch where forsythia and pussy willows grew off College Road will bloom again.

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