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Home Again, and The Road North

During the drive home to the city on Saturday afternoon, capping a week's vacation in the Adirondacks, meandering south on Albany Post Road (Route 9) and passing its gentle towns on the Hudson - Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Ardsley-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, I spotted the skyline far to the south. We were driving through Yonkers, I think, when the apparition of the city caught me by surprise. At that distance, the tall buildings appeared in a shade of soft violet blue and as nondescript rectangular shapes, with only the Empire State Building discernible in identity. After days looking at the shapes of mountains, the fog and the mist settling in valleys, the still waters of lakes and the flow of clear streams, approaching the city through the Hudson Valley seemed a more gentle transition to the landscape of streets and avenues than a ruder awakening via the Lincoln Tunnel. Driving though the tree-covered reaches of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx and then easing onto the Henry Hudson Parkway not only calmed my nerves but also properly situated New York City within the larger ecology of the region. From this angle, the city emerges as a continuous part of the state and not as a complete aberration. The city makes sense. Now here's a good place to build a city of eight million people - where the rivers flow and meet the harbor and the wide ocean.

We had traveled north for a change of scenery and the pleasures of mountain air, shifting into the north woods with a stay at Lake George. We sat on Adirondack chairs at the edge of the water, looked at ducks and boats, walked into town for lunch and dinner and generally unfettered ourselves gradually from worldly obligations. And then the road took us north again, to the High Peaks near Lake Placid. We walked in the woods with dogs, breathed in the balsam-scented air, visited the John Brown Farm Historic site, watched the sun rise and set over the mountains, and shopped in the stores along Main Street. I had no idea the purveyors of fashion have packaged the Adirondacks as a complete lifestyle, but they have, making available for purchase a large number of household items of rustic charm, many of which sport a great diversity of images of forest animals, but mostly likenesses of black bears.

It was great comfort to wake up for several consecutive mornings to see the mountains and smell the air. Quiet, too. I even liked driving, especially through the hairpin turns near Whiteface Mountain. But on the sixth day, late in the afternoon, we arrived quickly at the general consensus that it was closing time. We missed cafes and good coffee and Washington Square Park and doormen and cushioned chairs. I love knowing when it’s time to go home. And we’re home now. Life returns to normal on our busy little crowded island.

"'I rather expect that from now on I shall be traveling north until the end of my days.'"
- E. B. White, Stuart Little

Images of Lake George and the High Peaks near Lake Placid by Walking Off the Big Apple. July 2009. For more images of the trip see this slideshow on Flickr WOTBA. I brought along the essays of E.B. White to read on the trip, and I'll have more to say about the writer and New York in upcoming posts.

Comments

Teri, your sixth day revelation reminds me of a trip my wife and I took. We drove to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and camped on Lake Superior. It was a glorious, peaceful week of hiking, swimming, great food and lots of wine. When we got back to Chicago, we stopped at a grocery store before going to our apartment. I sat in the car to keep an eye on our stuff. All around me, buses rumbled by, cars honked, people walked or roller skated by with loud boomboxes [yeah, it was a while ago], sirens sounded... and I could just feel myself relaxing. I was home.

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