We are truly living in a golden age of nostalgia. My recent walk at Wentworth Farm–merely one of the seemingly infinite number of conservation areas within the Pioneer Valley–conjured up a powerful memory of the most memorable bit of film from my childhood. I expected to spend the day dreaming of it, replaying it over and over in my head until I couldn’t tell where memory ended and the invention began: when I discovered that it was actually on YouTube. Imagine that!
Perhaps because it’s about as different from the landscapes of my childhood home as one could imagine, the idea of an impossibly idyllic country lifestyle haunted my thoughts for years. The works of Beatrix Potter (along with Wind in the Willows, the other great “anthropomorphic English woodland creatures” text of our times) epitomized such a world in my young, Romantic mind: and I couldn’t help thinking about that childhood fancy as I walked through this secret stretch of field and pond.
Wentworth Farm is a surprise in suburbia–it’s across from some major apartment complexes, and certainly the last thing I expected to find when I first discovered it last winter. I’ve enjoyed watching it change throughout the seasons, and was particularly delighted to see it without a single patch of snow for the first time!
As I recall, Beatrix Potter led a very interesting life: she cultivated a strong passion for natural history as well as traditional fairy tales and folklore, both of which played into the eventual creation of her beloved series of children’s stories.
Potter became a farm owner later in her life, and continued to contribute to such diverse fields as sheep husbandry and land conservation. Sometimes, when I find that I am happiest while visiting the local farm at which I am a member, I wonder if that may eventually become my fate, too.
In a way, though Amherst is certainly not the Lake District and I’m not quite an adept illustrator of rabbits, I reveled in the kinship I felt with one of my favorite authors at Wentworth. It was so tempting to consider that someday I too could be a solitary, woods-wandering dreamer: though not, perhaps, one who creates something quite as traumatizing as a certain story about a poor kitten’s near brush with puddings of the roly-poly variety…