For almost my entire life, I lived on the outskirts of New York City. I visited often but never called the city my home until the fall of 2005. Since I made the move, I've had a love-hate relationship with my new home. On the one hand, I love the amenities, the overabundance of opportunities for entertainment and activities, and the diversity of the population.
Right now I'm entirely tired of Manhattan and just about everything that inhabits it's cramped space. I don't feel like making any excuses for that statement. I feel like generalizing. I'm tired of the superficial interests, self-serving attitudes, and the exclusionary air that fills the city. Tired of the pushing, rushing, incessant talking, honking, wealth, poverty, grime, sleaze, and pressure. I'm especially tired of how I get sucked into the madness here again and again. I'm so over it all right now.
I need to get away.
The biggest part of me misses the quiet beauty of Vermont. Much of what Vermont has to offer reminds me of my childhood. When I'm there, I don't think about work or the minutiae that clogs my thoughts in New York City.
I miss the smell of leafy green trees, blooming flowers, wet grass, even dirt. Digging and watering a garden. Picking tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables for dinner. Noticing simple things like whether or not a flower garden is coming along, playing with a dog in a lush backyard until it gets dark, watching fireflies twinkle in the air at dusk. Sounds of birds and crickets chirping, bugs buzzing, water splashing, screen doors slamming, lawn mowers mowing. Room to run, space to lay down and spread out my arms and legs, peeling long stalks of grass, searching for that ever elusive four-leafed clover, meandering down the road, writing poetry on a sun warmed porch. Walking barefoot.
I'm not a farm girl by any means. It would even be a stretch to call me a country girl. Far from it. In fact, other than pretty ladybugs and fireflies which I tend to enjoy from a distance, I happen to be "bug-phobic." Even so, I love escaping to in the country even if it's just for a long weekend. I don't think it'd take much to convince me to live there full-time. I would be happy to visit the city and live in the country.
The last time I was lucky enough to escape to Vermont during the summer, I stayed at a friend's vacation house for a few days. During the day, the neighbors allowed their red rooster to roam free around their flowered back yard. Somehow, this didn't bother the family cat, a sleepy orange ball that seemed to be a fixture under a corner willow tree. At the first sign of sun every morning, the rooster started to crow. Normally I dislike getting up at the break of dawn. Something about the rooster's early wake up call made me want to start my day early. Each morning, I woke with a smile on my face, downed a fresh cup of coffee, walked with the resident black lab to the store down the road. After picking up the newspaper and savoring a fresh maple donut, Pete (the lab) and I sat on the sun warmed porch watching the morning develop before us. It didn't hurt that I had a stunning view of a mountain range (part of the Appalachian Trail).
Small things that happened over the course of that weekend have remained vivid in my memory. While making lunch in the kitchen one sunny afternoon, I noticed a hummingbird was stuck between two windowpanes. Watching the beating of the wings against the glass was dizzying and a bit frightening. Working with my friend to free the panicked bird without injuring its wings was stressful. This was a different kind of stress than what I experience at work during the week. The feeling was almost paralyzing because the bird's life was at stake. Once it was freed, I watched the fascinating creature disappear into the sky, I felt my heart soar.
Lying in the sun on a larger than life sized boulder many feet above a rushing river was exhilarating. The loud music of water rushing past me drowned all other sounds. Thick woods crowded the riverbank and the fresh smell of the trees and grass was positively invigorating. I brought a book with me each day but found myself wanting to do nothing but lie as still as possible, soaking in all the sounds and smells around me while baking in the hot sun.
Stopping off at a roadside vegetable stand on my way home, I had a friendly chat with some neighbors and I bought fresh stalks of corn for dinner. I couldn't help but put my nose in the bag to inhale the crisp scent of corn and husk over and over again on the walk home.
Over the course of the vacation, I found myself making excuses to walk to the store down the road every afternoon to indulge in cravings I haven't had since childhood. Ice cream sandwiches, sherbet, lemonade, potato chips, peanut butter and jelly. The sights along the way were joyful. Children playing barefoot in their yards, waving neighbors, lush gardens, cyclists, a barn renovated into a post office, waterfalls, boulders.
As I read over what I just wrote, I'm filled with anticipation and I feel better already. I'm looking forward to escaping from the city for about a week in March. I need to recharge with some clean mountain air. While I'm not sure what fantastic things the first part of the week will hold (that part of the week is a surprise and I am told it will be fantastic, beachy and warm...very exciting stuff), I know that the last part of the week, I'll be skiing in Vermont. It will be cold and the ground will be covered with snow.
Even when blanketed, I am in love the landscape and the culture. Riding the lift up the mountain is peaceful regardless if I'm alone, with a friend, or with strangers. I like watching my own breath steam in the cold as I'm carried alongside and then up and over the tips of pine and white birch trees. Sun, clouds, snow, ice storm, I love skiing in Vermont no matter what the conditions. Warming my bones at the end of a great ski day in front of a fire with a cocktail in hand, what better way to end a great day?
My hot and cold love affair with New York is just that. Right now it has cooled. I need very much to get away from it all. Once I return, I'll come back to my city with an improved attitude, carrying my week away in my heart with memories to carry me until the next escape. New York knows that I'd leave it for a greener state in a heartbeat. It also knows that I'll return. I love it most for always welcoming me home.