WE UP STAKES

So, after 34 years in one house, and a lifetime on greater Long Island, Frank and I suddenly decide to up stakes and move to the Berkshires.

It’s kind of an impulsive Joseph Campbell “Follow your bliss” decision, made in response to the glory of the Berkshires even in bleakest November. It’s the promise of a different way of life, maybe even a different way of being. Or maybe it’s just an adventure, something not so readily come by after 65. Who knows?

And what’s it like, the slow living out of a sudden decision?

Well, life in the country so far has a lot in common with the first sentence of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, which rambles for pages, in and out of time and space and grammatical construction, to the point where a lot of potential readers give up in mid-sentence.

IT’S LIKE THAT

Here in the woods, whatever we do doesn’t just go ahead smoothly from needing to doing. It meanders by digressions —–

Where is that Whatever I need? in a box? in what box? in a box in the garage under three other boxes? or maybe I already unpacked it and put it somewhere else which had an internal logic at the time, but whatever that internal logic was, it’s vanished, and a new internal logic is ticking over, which still doesn’t locate the Whatever until, in the fullness of time, it turns up of its own accord,  you cannot begin to imagine the time this process takes! and it seems to be repeated with every new Whatever that we need…

YOU GET THE POINT

Frank and I are irritable and snappish with each other more often and more intensely than I remember, and I’m only consoled when friends keep calling to ask, Are you still married? And then I know objectively that moving really is a strain, it isn’t us, it’s the situation. Sometimes we’ll open a bottle of wine, and have a glass. Or maybe ice cream, with that new chocolate shell coating. We may end up fat and bibulous, but will save our marriage.

And if it’s all too much sometimes, there’s a sure solution: I lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A SURE AND CERTAIN RESTORATIVE

The tender green of spring leaves is just beginning to unfurl (spring comes late in New England), bold green pines soar heavenward, the distant haze of hills rises against a sky sometimes a definitive sky-blue; but more often the sky is gray.

Sometimes it’s a heavy leaden gray, and sometimes pale charcoal smudges creep across it on Sandburgian little cat feet; and at twilight, it can be the deepest glowing navy blue, almost a contradiction in itself, a radiant darkness. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

Wild turkeys wander in and out of the margin of the woods. The woods are theirs: they allow us here, but ignore us. They waddle along the close-shaven meadow under our windows. Amazing. Wild turkeys! A rabbit in the early evening freezes, sitting tall, intently watching something or other, until suddenly it bounds away. There are stately crows, strolling up and down. And the frequent sound of woodpeckers. Birdsong.

A SEA CHANGE FOR ME

Nature was always very nice for me, hmmm, a wonderful thing. I was always very respectful of nature. Just not very interested. And suddenly it’s thrilling and contemplative and restorative. Imagine that. All these years of living, and at last I’m catching up with the rest of you, who knew this all along!

It took umpty-ump visits to the RMV, but we now have Massachusetts license plates, and MA driver’s licenses as well. What a strange moment when I handed the registrar my New York driver’s license and SHE DIDN’T GIVE IT BACK. Shock! My whole life as a New Yorker, handed over to a stranger. More strangeness.

Well, that’s it for now, from us both in the Berkshires, in the woods.

Early May 2002


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