A strange and bewitching quality: Allison’s postcard from Poets’ Walk, Hudson River Valley

Allison walks a path frequented by Washington Irving, Poets’ Walk, Hudson River Valley, New York April 2015

Allison walks a path reputedly frequented by Washington Irving – Poets’ Walk, Hudson River Valley, New York
April 2015

Why I went…

Washington Irving reputedly frequented these paths and found in their view of the Hudson and the Catskills inspiration for ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ I do not study Irving (or American literature), but have always found his stories and particularly ‘Rip’ to have a strange and bewitching quality. When I was given the opportunity to travel in the Hudson River Valley recently, the first thing I thought of was Irving’s description of the Dutch villages in the shadow of the Catskills, and this unashamedly romantic perspective motivated me to visit and colored my entire time in the region, and on this walk.

What I got out of the experience…

This walk made me think about sleep and wonder what inspired Irving, gazing at the Catskills, to imagine them a good place to sleep for twenty years. Or maybe Irving was reflecting that these mountains would be the right place not for sleep so much as loss: Rip becomes a part of the landscape as he lies there, unmoving, for so long, and the life he knew disappears. Is it significant that Irving did not make the site of the story the place where he was walking, but the place that he saw from afar off? Because in the villages surrounding this walk, there are everywhere graveyards dating to the early Dutch settlements, countless sleepers underground who have become such permanent dwellers in the land that they have lost their bodies to it, and their names are not a distant memory, like Rip’s, but entirely wiped away.
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