I have called Ulster County home my entire life and I have never thought of it as otherwise. No matter where I went in the world, no one location was drawing enough to keep me away from the place I called home. No one location was ever enticing enough to make me want to leave Ulster County behind. The world is undoubtedly filled with beauty, but Upstate New York has a special place in my heart that will always make it my home.
I grew up in at a secluded stone house nestled in Stone Ridge. I have many memories of this house from all seasons of the year. I would spend my springs watching the heavy rain and thunderstorms from my porch. My mother and I always used to call thunderstorms “giant bowling tournaments in the sky.” Watching storms with her is one of my best memories growing up. I would spend my summers and autumns exploring the woods behind my house and scouring my stream for frogs and crayfish; my dog would always follow me everywhere I explored without fail. No matter how deep into the woods I went, he would always be right behind keeping an eye on me. I would also walk to my grandmothers or jump into the river using a rope swing tied to a tree. I would spend my winters walking along the frozen stream or building snow forts in the giant snow banks made from my dad’s snow plow. There was always beauty to be found at my house.
As I grew up and left childhood behind, things began to change; the harsh reality of life began to press down on me. My favorite tree was cut down while we were away on vacation. I was furious with my parents because I never got to climb it one last time. The dog I had grown up with, my partner in crime, passed away. Hurricane floods took away the tree holding up the rope swing. I did not get into the college I had dreamed of going to in high school. I drifted apart from my childhood best friend and my mother passed away. As much as these events changed the way I remembered things, they were never able to take away the beauty of this area that I call home. I still hike to the top of Bonticue Crag every summer to see the entire valley stretched out beneath me. I still swim in every river I can and ski every mountain possible. This area will always be my home, no matter what hardships I endure, because every day I make new memories. Ulster County will always be a place I can return happily to.
Tom Hansen is RUPCO’s Assistant Event Coordinator. He is currently a student at Ulster Community College majoring in Business Administration.