Living on — and loving — a river

By Caitlin Kelly

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Early morning — 7:30 a.m.-ish — view from our apartment on the east side of the Hudson River. That gentle pink is the sun’s rays.

 

I started writing this post as I rocketed north toward Canada on an Amtrak train, its tracks right alongside the Hudson River. On the opposite side, I could see cargo trains heading south.

I’ve been living on eastern side of the river now for decades, and love it deeply.

If you’ve never been to New York or to the Hudson Valley, it’s really one of the nation’s prettiest places and I feel lucky to have landed there.

 

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The newly-completed Tappan Zee Bridge

 

We live in an (owned) apartment whose every window faces the river, and I’ve witnessed its changing moods — fog so thick the world disappears, rainstorms sliding down the water like a Hokusai print, heat lighting flashing for miles.

Our little town has a lighthouse and, as you head north up the Hudson, it narrows dramatically, with steep, jagged rock cliffs encircled by bald eagles and red-tailed hawks.

On the west bank sits a collection of buildings, one of the country’s most prestigious institutions — West Point Military Academy. In the winter, you sometimes see its students getting on the train in New York at Grand Central, their thick gray cloaks giving them an 18th-century elegance.

 

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The Palisades, south of us where the river narrows

 

The Hudson is a working river, filled with enormous barges being pushed or towed by small but extremely powerful tugboats.

You can sail, canoe and kayak on the Hudson and even swim off of some its beaches.

There are even (!) oyster beds near our town, which were carefully removed for a few years while they built the new and beautiful bridge between the eastern and western shores.

 

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I’ve lived in cities with a river before — Montreal, on the St. Lawrence, Paris, with the Seine — but never paid as close attention to them as I do to the Hudson.

 

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In winter, it’s equally amazing, with huge blocks of ice shuffling up against one another.

 

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This last image is where the top of the Harlem River — and the beginning of the island of Manhattan — meets the Hudson, one of our regular views from the Metro-North commuter train, and a sight I never tire of.

The station stop where I snapped this image from the train is Spuyten Duyvil, in a fancy part of the Bronx — and in Dutch means Spouting Devil; as you may know, this was once New Amsterdam and many places around New York still bear Dutch names. (The Bronx derives from Jacob Bronck, who claimed the land in 1639.)

 

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23 thoughts on “Living on — and loving — a river

  1. Jann Jasper

    Wonderful post and great photos – thank you! I agree, there are so many scenes of stunning beauty along the Hudson River
    It’s lovely that all of your apartment windows are on the river side! . I’ve recently driven over the new Tappan Zee Bridge and it is actually awesome. (Awesome is a word I use maybe twice a year.)

  2. Robert Lerose

    Caitlin,

    Your evocative and poetic description of the wonders of the river and your special relationship with it resonate with me, especially on this dreary day. Although I don’t live by a river, I get rejuvenated whenever I’m in nature. Even a simple walk around the block and breathing clean air lifts my spirits. I know you’ve written about the restorative powers of the outdoors, and today’s essay lovingly re-confirms that.

    Robert

  3. I have never been to New York or seen the Hudson – this river looks truly spectacular, and what an evocative essay and photos – thank you for sharing! I often feel cities “need” rivers to have true character. My home town, Napier, was flanked by one, the Tutaekuri (literally ‘Dog Shit’ river, a Maori name it gained from the brown sediments it carries in spring, as it lazily carries alluvial deposits to the coast). It was diverted, decades before I was born, to make way for suburban land (my family home was on part of the reclamation). It flowed elsewhere when I was growing up, but not so far away, and we used to drive out as a family to swim in it on the hot summer evenings.

    1. I so enjoy it — and miss it when I am away.

      I grew up in Toronto, whose expressways have made access to Lake Ontario difficult and ugly unless you go way east or west (v difficult without a car) where there are several lovely waterfront parks. But a lake is much less interesting than a river! Especially this one, which also has a tide from the ocean, so the water changes direction and is salty quite far north.

      People easily forget that NYC is an island bounded by two rivers and the bay/ocean but I love the maritime traffic. One of the biggest thrills of my life here was an afternoon out in NYC harbor on a working tugboat.

  4. There is something about rivers…the constant flow, the power, the life they attract. Your view over the Hudson is eerily similar to ours over Lake Geneva, across to the Jura mountains. The Rhone river also flows through our lake, which perhaps explains why it feels so similar. Your views are stunning! I am struck by how far it is from anything urban, having imagined your big city life in New York. We tend to forget what a big country is the US, and how much space is around even the biggest urban areas.

    1. I do love our views….:-)

      Our apartment is nothing special (mid 1960s) or our building’s design, but its hilltop location and top floor location and knowing our views would never change (there is a low-level condo development across the street) was the deciding factor for me when we bought it in 1989. Only the trees are taller so we lose our view to foliage in the summer now.

      I am in Manhattan a lot (3x this week) and we can see (!??) the towers of downtown from our street, even 25 miles north — but even this short distance away makes for a different lifestyle. We have a 750 acre forest (land donated by the Rockefellers, who live a 10 minute drive from us) to wander in as well.

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  6. Awesome photos! You are very lucky so have such a wonderful view. I am from Ontario and would love to see the Hudson, and New York City. I have only seen it on movies/tv but your photos show a different perspective. I agree that the waterfront in Toronto is shadowed by the ugly expressways surrounding it, not to mention all of the condos that have been built in the recent years.

    1. Thanks!

      When I moved to Tarrytown (originally from Toronto) we had a very tight budget and it was the height of the market…there were very very few apartments even available for us to buy. The second I saw that view (and the apt. was in poor condition) I said YES!

      I always urge visitors to NY to spend some time on the riverfront — where there are walking and bike paths, even bars right on the Hudson. The East River is more of a working river and doesn’t have the stunning geography.

      Toronto has really blown it…:-)

  7. I have always loved rivers, having grown up with one in my front yard – the Thames River forks at the heart of London, Ontario. The one fork, the south branch, heads off through the village where I grew up. Not as grand as the Hudson, but my river. : ) Beautiful shots.

      1. Yes, they are rather unassuming, yet if you care for them they will care for you. Oceans are almost gaudy in comparison. ; ) Though I love Oceans, but they do not speak to me like rivers do. Oceans are mysterious, rivers are open and honest.

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