William D. Waltz

from A Very Long Walk

When I moved to western Massachusetts from a large midwestern city, I expected to find a maze of mill towns and industrial cities built of red brick. Instead, there were more cornfields than I'd seen since leaving rural Ohio and even more open woodland than crops. I'd held a rather romantic nineteenth-century notion of the Bay State as an icon of the Industrial Age. And while industry, though less ubiquitous than I'd imagined, and agriculture dominated the landscape, nature nevertheless persisted. By the late eighties, Massachusetts was undergoing a profound metamorphosis. Land was returning to its natural state, that is, to its pre-Colonial condition faster than it was being developed and had been trending so for years, yielding a greener commonwealth with more forest than it had had in nearly two hundred years. As surprised as I was to find this transformation on my arrival, I was grateful to have been reunited with the trees and hills. My new home's return to nature precipitated my own homecoming