It’s been only three full days since we returned from two weeks in the southwest, several of those days spent in a house surrounded by 26,000 acres of mesquite, creosote, cottonwoods — and an eight-foot mountain lion barely a Manhattan block from our front door. The silence, there, was deliciously deafening, the night sky so star-studded it seemed impossible.
I drove into Manhattan today, a bit stunned by the contrast. I’ve lived north of the city for 21 years and now, after all those years, it feels manageable and familiar. I know where to find a parking garage and am not shocked when it costs me $26 to 30 for four hours. Manhattan often feels like a small child — it can be utterly charming, lulling you into a sense of deep, sighing pleasure, then, often without warning, it offers the urban equivalent of projectile vomit: a new tax (another one?), a hike in tolls (another one?), your favorite restaurant or shop shuttered and gone for good.
I’ve always been a big-city person, happy to walk fast and talk fast. But I’ve also always dreamed of a life that includes a battered old pick-up truck, the kind with a bench seat and a gearshift that sticks high out of the floor, and a horse. Only the very wealthy, here, can afford a horse. I like places where kindness and character trump glibness and gloss and was struck by the welcome we found amid friends old and new, and even from strangers, on our trip. My partner grew up and attended college in New Mexico, so it was also a homecoming for him, including a visit to his old journalism professor.
It was good to see the the world he grew up looking at, to watch storms layer the mountain-tops and appreciate how different things look when the horizon dominates and almost every building is low and earth-colored. There’s an inherent humility to it that’s also refreshing after the Trump-ishness of New York City.
We came back from the desert a little changed, our weary heads cleared, our imaginations re-charged and filled with new ideas. It was a nasty shock to see, with fresh eyes, New York’s graffiti and concrete and filthy highways, although lovely to enjoy the Hudson River view. I wonder if we could handle living in a place where a pick-up truck isn’t an affectation but a life-saving necessity, where water is, as they say, more valuable than whiskey.
I looked up at the sky tonight and could only see a half-dozen stars. It looked a little empty.