The Back Road
By Amy Palmer
We really ought to take the back road more often. Not because there is mega traffic right now on the main road and not because the trade parade reverses itself west to east and east to west every single day, but because it’s a beautiful road. The short drive from Bridgehampton toSouthamptonbecomes a mini vacation for the senses and the remembrances of all that you learned about geology and our last ice age, about the mile high block of ice stacked above the moraine that is known as the backbone ofLong Island. Before this glacier left us, it gave us a priceless gift. As it receded and melted, our glacier, that was loaded with silt and soil, boulders, rocks, and the detritus of scores of forests, meadows, lakes and hills, scraped these treasures from the surface ofNew England and Canada and gave them to us.
When I drive the back road these days I pause to thank the last ice age for the perfect soil it gave me, the famous Bridgehampton loam that we all talk about. How many years did it take for that loam and soil to be washed by indeterminable rains over the eons to make its way to the two little acres that I have gardened in for the last twenty years? What that glacier gave me has became a big part of my life, the husbandry, the stewardship of the land I have come to love. The potato field that I am privileged to care for is now, at this stage of it’s evolution, a series of outdoor garden rooms. One room is an organic kitchen garden near the house, one of five completely different small gardens. In the kitchen garden created by by my husband and myself twenty years ago, are three raised beds, each four by twenty-four feet. They have provided my family and many others with an amazing amount of fresh organic food; it is a miracle to see what our three raised garden beds are able to produce again and again each year. I for one completely understand what was meant when the question was asked in Bill Bryson’s book ,” A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING”, “Did you have a good ice age?” The answer here in Bridgehampton is, yes we did.
Twelve thousand years, that’s how many years it has taken to build the fertile farm plains south of the moraine and ending at theAtlantic ocean. I love to hear Bridgehampton people say, “I was born with one foot in a potato field and the other in theAtlantic Ocean”, I wish I could say that, I can’t think of a better pedigree of any time or any place to be able to lay claim to. These are some of my thoughts on the back road as I drive through Bridgehampton and Water Mill on my way toSouthampton.
Several years ago I read an account of the birth of Long Island by a staff writer at Newsday named Dan Fagin. He described in detail the ice sheet that was 1,000 feet tall at it’s front edge and was so heavy it distorted the Earth’s crust. The hilly ridge, or moraine as Dan explained, is our moraine, ours to wonder at as we take the time and make the effort to drive the back road. It matters little what the season. In the spring, the half mile or so of daffodills along the side of the road reminds one of Wordsworth’s poetry and theLake DistrictinEngland, in summer you will find no finer countryside of fields and small woods, no skies as beautiful. There is no need to drive to Vermont in the autumn to see magnificent color, it is right here on the back road And, in winter, in winter your imagination does not have to work overtime to visualize our mile high cliff of ice, glinting in the sun, as it began it’s slow receding melt, leaving us with our treasured soil and our amazing geological past.