Sunday, 29 December 2013

Dry stone walls and second-growth forest says Rockland County woodland like nothing else. All this area was farmland, fields divided by the stone walls, and it's astonishing how quickly the forest takes over again. Only 40 years ago the land to the right of this stone wall was a field and now? The old metal posts of the baseball catcher's net make a magic picture - appearing if you look for them, disappearing if you don't.

Coming back here is always a mixed bag of tricks. There are so many memories at every point that tug at my heart and yesterday, walking up Main Street, Nyack, I thought I saw the ghost of my teenage self come skipping out of a door I used to go through. Is that possible? It actually made
me stop in my tracks. And then, as I walked on, I thought about how we who remember this area - and others who remember their areas from years ago - are looking for and seeing just what they want to, ignoring all the rampant development that's taken place since.  

Here on the right is Nyack, New York. A town that was once mecca to me: the place where I could be sure of seeing at least one person I knew if I went there. The place, as a teenager, where I wanted to just hang, just in case... Now, I go back once a year, sit in the corner window seat of the best pizza place on the planet (no arguments now!) and watch a little bit of the world go by and think: "Isn't this all I ever really wanted to do? Sit in Turiello's, eating pizza and looking out for familiar faces?"

Of course, there's so much more to life and, like the Tom Petty song: 

"She couldn't help thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to..."

The call to leave pulled me away and set up the tug of war inside me that has never left: go, stay, go, stay, go, return...

But enough inward reflection! Nyack was also a stop along the Underground Railway, that network that helped slaves from the south escape north. This little garage I found with the words 'Underground Railway' painted on its sign, is not an authentic piece of history, but it is close to the Nyack Brook, which was one of the waterways used as a landmark.

As a child, when I heard the words 'Underground Railway', I pictured something like the New York City subway system. It was nothing so literal: really, it was a series of safe houses, paths, places and landmarks that the escaping people would be guided by. It was underground in the sense that it was secret...

I like the little window at the top of this house. It says: This is what houses were given once upon a time. Useful adornments, like shutters and curves. Homes were beautiful and showcased the architecture of the countries immigrants brought with them. Now? This house has a for sale sign on it with the words 'commercial use only' underneath. It is hard by busy Route 59 and surrounded by a motel parking lot and a Midas tire garage.
 I'll finish with one last picture of the woods up in New City and the stream where I spent hours perfecting my stepping-stone technique as a child.

Good-bye for now, New York State.

Friday, 27 December 2013

 If I were ever going to live in the USA again, it would have to be in Upstate New York. There's something about the mountains that connects with something inside of me that makes me feel "ahhh, home..."

Our time in this bit of the world is coming to end today, so there was one last walk up to the top of the mountain, several long last looks over the valleys and towards the mountain ranges in the distance, which seem to hold some kind of magic, as if there are infinite possibilities just a bit out of reach.

Yesterday we had the treat of seeing a woodpecker do his stuff and here he is, pecking away at a birch tree.

The sunset over the lake was a solid A+.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry white Christmas to everyone from Upstate New York! How fab to wake to the scraping sound of snow being shoveled and this beautiful view out the window. It's enough to make one feel truly very lucky indeed to be surrounded by people I love, in a place I love. I know that sounds terribly smug, but in a world where there is so much loneliness and isolation, it is a wonderful treat to enjoy all of this. Here's wishing the same to everyone who reads this!

To set the festive scene, here are a couple of very sweet decorations made here last night. A herd of pipe cleaner reindeer and Santa's clothes put out to dry.

And finally, a view to make a walker pause and just... look. While in so many directions, I notice the steady spread of building and human habitation and marks on the land, this one vista remains unchanged. May it ever be so.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Nothing says Christmas quite like giant mirrored disco balls suspended over the street, at least, it does in Shoreditch.

And so to the work Christmas lunch yesterday, held in deepest Hackney. The doorway looked like it hadn't even been cleaned since circa 1980, all dirty tiles and on grubby Mare Street, but down the long passageway that led through the building and a turn right and... Voila! A chi-chi gastro pub kind of place with something like Farrow & Ball's French Grey paint on the walls and waiters in matching check shirts.

A sort of mad mix of trivia questions and Jenga ensued post-meal. I think the idea was that if you didn't answer the question right, you removed a Jenga log and if you knocked the whole thing over, you had to do a shot. What wasn't clear was if this was a punishment or a prize...

Today is the last work day for me pre-Xmas - amazing. Actually, what will be truly amazing is if I get all packed and organised before I go to... (drum roll...)... New York tomorrow! Whoop, whoop.