Monday, May 05, 2008

On leaves, and leaving

As my previous post noted, we are leaving New York City. I have accepted a job offer from the Pew Charitable Trusts to publicize their environmental work. We move on May 16; I start the new job on May 27.

To those who know us, this comes as no surprise. We had been making noise about leaving town for years. New York City is no longer a welcoming place for the middle class. The housing stock is too expensive, the schools are horrible and getting worse, the subway system is also deteriorating, and the overall cost of living – emotional as well as economical – is far too high.

But I have called this city home for all of my 40 years; breaking up is indeed hard to do.

Yesterday morning I went for a run in Van Cortland Park, traveling a route I had taken many times before. It leads through a stand of woods squeezed between a major street and a busy parkway, yet there is a half-mile stretch in a small ravine where the valley’s ridges and trees shut out the sound of traffic and humanity and you are left to enjoy the sounds of a forest. You could be anywhere, not within the New York City limits.

I have run this trail countless times, through rain and snow and sleet and even bright sunshine and glorious autumn mornings. But this morning, with the mist settling delicately on the new leaves of the oaks and tulip poplars, I thought about all the many crises and personal storms that I ran through as well.

These woods were more than my refuge, the trees did more than shelter me. They absorbed the angst and anguish and anger from innumerable crises, sucking it all in like they breathe in the car exhaust and exhaling peace and tranquility and a friendly space for the red tailed hawk that’s buzzed me more often than not as I’ve run past.

I’ve been in such desperate moods, my brain lost in turmoil as my feet find their way through the well-traveled trails, that sometimes I can’t recount a single detail from my run but feel infinitely better from the trees lifting burden after burden from my shoulders. I’ve run through the recent deaths of my brother, my mother-in-law and a dear friend and mentor; the aborted pregnancy of our first child; the needless travails of too many crappy bosses; and the achingly long road that led to our adopting CJ.

Perhaps they stand so tall and solid because they also saw me through happier times as well. They also shelter enough raspberry bushes to make most of the Bronx happy, it seems.

We are moving to Silver Spring, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Rock Creek Park. When I first started looking at the map of Washington, DC, my focus immediately fastened onto Rock Spring, the largest green swath in the district’s boundaries. We drove through the park during one of our househunting trips, and while the trees are sufficiently large the presence of the road itself raises doubts about the seclusion that the broad branches offer. But this will be home for at least the next year or so, and hopefully we will find a new home close to enough to another stand of trees that can shelter me from future storms aplenty.

My apologies for waxing poetic; one gets more than a little nostalgic contemplating such change in life.

- Dan

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