Since leaving Portland, I find little comfort in my place.
I’ve been a New Yorker. I’ve felt its pulse. How the city surges and creativity bleeds up through the asphalt in the heat of summer. How the Winter wind gets in your bones and teaches you, that parts of you — were always cold. How Spring emerges in Washington Square Park from tulip bulbs that have ached, for long months, to paint the city with their color.
But, now, my New York moments have become frequent realizations that the place I once belonged — the home that once called out loudly for me — has quieted, and only loops the hushed whispers of my past — dreams for another life.
So, on a random Friday, without a plan, I find myself driving.
I end up in Kingston, New York. — Not on a total whim. — My cousin, more like a sister, who knows me better than most people care to, told me ages ago, that she thought I’d like it here. I pay a quarter to park the car next to the U.S. Post Office and step out into this cold winter day. — She was right.
In upstate New York, I can move with ease. Trees are a more common sight than people and every few miles, the scent of a wood-burning stove fills my nostrils and I am reminded that life can be simpler than subway maps and overpriced high-rises.
Kingston, on the Westerly side of the Hudson, is colorful. Narrow streets lined with bright buildings that are old, but not tired. Kingston breathes.
And so, I breathe with it as I walk around the Old Dutch Church, clutching a cup of hot Earl Grey, out onto a series of little streets which meet one another at curbs that are adorably uneven. The town feels tiny and boasts wood framed, two-story buildings proudly. Each one a New England-y version of the saloons out in the Old West, adorned with decorative, quartered-wagon-wheel fixtures at the corners of each squared-off porch.
Every street corner is regulated by four-way-stop-signs and a flashing red light. Though, I patiently wait at John Street for the Volvo that has the right of way, the woman behind its wheel still waves me on with her puffy grey mitten. And I shuffle, hurriedly, to the uneven curb across the street, waving my thanks with my free hand and gripping my paper tea cup with the other.
This place feels new and old and it floods my heart with it’s charm. I have a moment where I feel like my life is possible again. Real life. — A new apartment building. A new job. A new route to the grocery store. — I could have those things here. I could be OK here. I could be OK. Here. — And, I feel something that I haven’t felt in a long while.
I drive through the Hudson Valley and afternoon light hits the mountains, just so, turning them a Holy blue-purple hue that I will not attempt to describe. It reminds me of Sauvie Island, back in Portland. I pull into a gas station and allow my eyes to well up with tears. I let myself pine for Portland. I feel it surge. — All the love I left there. Lost there. Burned there. And, in the parking lot of the Sunoco gas station just five miles out of Kingston, I let it all go and decide –as long as I’m here — it’s time to refuel.
There are reasons to leave the places we love. There is a time to come home and wake your mother in the middle of the night so that she can hold you while you weep. Ruin will sometimes find us, even when we thought we’d escaped it. There are seasons we will lose to depression and bad weather. And, Baba Ram Dass would tell me — Baby, this is all just grist for the mill.
Every now and then, we should take the roads that lead to the places our sisters say we should go. And, perhaps, those are the places we should stay. Rewrite our maps. Discover rivers that will lead us around new curves, spilling out into different oceans. New bodies of water where we can empty out our hearts and make room. Room for bright colors and uneven curbs. Room for new routes and routines. Where strangers with grey mittens will wave us on to what’s next.
Kingston. — On the highway that takes you, in just an hour, to the sister who would have you be happy above all things. A daughter of the East, returns. To this — The Empire State.
Back again, and in the same state as my mother, who once thought she lost me to the wild, wild West.
Image Courtesy of: http://kingston-ny.gov/