NEARLY FOUR DECADES AFTER I LEFT, I have returned to my native land. A region the U.S. National Park Service has designated ‘The Last Green Valley’. It is a roughly 20-mile (32 km) swath of forests that extend from the Atlantic salt waters of Long Island Sound, north through eastern Connecticut, and into parts of central Massachusetts. In nighttime satellite photos of the 250-mile (400 km) wide American megalopolis stretching from Washington, D.C., to Boston, this regional appears dark because it is the only undeveloped region amid that 50-million person megalopolis. It is the watershed of Connecticut’s Thames River and it consists of 1,100 square miles, 77 percent of which is simply forest.
I was born in Willimantic (population 15,000), the fourth-largest of the region’s 35 towns. I left this region in 1983 for a larger world, but last week moved from that world into tiny Taftville (pop. 7,000), a half hour downriver from my birthplace. There my wife and I have a three-bedroom duplex in a converted mill overlooking a lake and very wide waterfall. When this mill was built in 1866,, it was the largest (430,000-square-feet/40,000 m2) thread mill in the world for several years. My Irish great-grandparents each emigrated here during the 1880s, met and married. She worked in the mill; he on the railroad that serviced it. I now live in that mill.
My wife and I live part of each in the United States and the other part of the year in her native city (population: 380,000) in Spain’s Canary Islands. A three-bedroom duplex in a converted mill overlooking rural Shetucket Falls here in eastern Connecticut costs less than a studio apartment would have in the New York City suburb of Stamford, Connecticut, where my wife and I were living. Moreover, our new place lacks the four-figure monthly commons/homeowners charge that we have been paying where we had been living at what before February had been known as Trump Parc Stamford.