Is here, on our suburban New York, small town balcony.
After three full months of isolation, this is now our extra room and my outdoor office and a break from so much life lived safely only inside our apartment.
We face northwest, facing the Hudson River from its eastern side.
Those white things in the distance that look like sails — that’s the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The light is gorgeous, and we can see the sunrise reflected in the many windows of the houses on the western side as the rising sun hits them.
I call it the “ruby moment.”
We’re on the top floor, 6th floor, with only the sky above us — and plenty of (noisy!) helicopters and jets, as we are on the flight path to the local county airport.
Sometimes we hear the very distinctive thud-thud-thud of a twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook, a $38.5 million military helicopter moving along the Hudson on its way to West Point, the military academy just north of us.
Before he left for good, my first husband built a sturdy bench on the balcony that serves both as comfortable seating (with custom-made cushions) and storage for potting soil, paint supplies and tools. We repaint it every year to freshen it up.
And the area is blessed with quite a few good plant nurseries, so we budget for a blast of gorgeous color every summer.
I love how dramatic this view is — ever-changing. We see rain and snowstorms long before they arrive
We’re literally at tree-top level, with dragonflies and bumblebees and songbirds coming to visit — there’s a daily chorus of birdsong every morning around 4:30 a.m.
I can’t wait to set out lanterns and invite friends back for summer meals here, lounging against all the blue and white and yellow and green pillows we’ve accumulated.
Our winding, narrow street slows down traffic, and we don’t get a lot of it, which also keeps it quiet. There is only one remaining house, and the rest are low-level condominiums or co-op apartment buildings, so our terrific view has never changed and never will.
It really is a refuge, and the best summer break we will get for quite some time to come.
Have you been enjoying yours? Did you take any time off? Travel?
June is my birthday month, so we always plan something fun. We flew to Jose’s hometown of Santa Fe for eight perfect days, and really splurged. We got first class airline tickets, and that’s it. My future life! (I wish.)
We stayed four days with friends then enjoyed a comfortable and quiet hotel room a few blocks from downtown, ate great good, saw friends, played a round of golf. I haven’t been that relaxed in a long, long time. It was bliss!
July has been the usual frenzy of seeking and completing freelance work for a variety of people — nbcnews.com, a blog post for branded content, three short pieces for a magazine focused on hemophilia, for which I got to interview a UK cyclist who’d just finished the Tour de France. That was fun!
I’ve committed to a major reporting project that takes us north to Canada on the 31st for a few weeks. I can’t say more until it’s published but am really excited to finally once more tackle a serious, challenging story. I enjoy my work, but writing 300 words or 500 words or even 1,000 words barely scratches the surface of most issues.
This story proposal was rejected by at least six other places, so it’s also a relief to have found a good home for it.
And Jose is coming with me! We have never really worked together, so that’s exciting.
Fun this summer has included enjoying afternoons — usually 3pm to 5:30 — at our building’s swimming pool and lots of time on our balcony IDing bird calls and the many many flights overhead, using FlightRadar24.
For aviation geeks like us — living beneath the flight paths to four New York City/area airports: Westchester, NY; Newark, JFK and Laguardia — it’s a lot of fun to see who’s up there and in what aircraft and where they’re headed.
Love our sunsets!
We’re on the top floor, so it’s lovely and private at treetop level, still with a bit of Hudson River view.
I tend to avoid New York City all summer — too hot, humid, smelly and crowded — with too many days of delayed subway service. Hell is standing on a super-jammed platform drenched in sweat with no ventilation. I’ve ventured in a few times for work and play.
This coming week I’ll visit Boscobel to see Into the Woods, a musical, for the first time. Looking forward to it!
We still have a few months to enjoy our town’s lively Saturday morning farmer’s market, complete with live music, and on the steamiest days I flee to our gorgeous town library, with its tall ceilings, silence and very good air conditioning! They even have private conference rooms so I can do phone interviews as well.
Here is the truth: I hated camp. I hated camp so much, and continue to hate it and to resent the fact that I hated it, that I’ve come to develop a grand, if wobbly, theory about it. The world divides into those people who despised camp and those people who loved it. What about those who never even went? They would probably fall into either camp if they had.
People who like camp, naturally (that’s a key word in this divide) are different from me in every way. Campers are outgoing; they are out-everything, really — outdoorsy, outward bound. They dart through bushes without worrying about ticks or slugs or sharp metal objects hidden in the undergrowth. They enjoy getting undressed in front of large groups of strangers. They know how to throw and catch Frisbees. They don’t mind bologna.
You learn to pick your bunk, preferably the lower one so you can draw your knees up and kick the bum of the kid above you. You hope the kid above you does not wet the bed, snore or have an epileptic fit.
You learn to hoist a sail, build a fire, portage a canoe, gunwhale bob (and pronounce gunwhale, “gunnel”), twang a bow, pitch a tent, collect firewood from the highest branches (using a Melamine mug and long rope swung like a lasso.)
You get homesick, and get over it. You discover you’re really good at the J-stroke or singing Broadway show tunes in the summer musical. You learn how to cup your hands and imitate a loon call.
You learn how to spot a loon across a lake before he dives deep and disappears. You learn to find your place in a new community, amid the bed-wetters and thumb-suckers, the jocks and the artistes.
You realize, no matter how poorly you might fit into your class or your school or your neighborhood or town or your family, these people are genuinely happy to see you. The best counselors, and they are gifts indeed, want to see you thrive and grow. Your shoulders drop a little with relief.
Camp is definitely a North American thing, and usually for people whose families have healthy incomes.
For me, it was also the place I put myself back together again — emotionally and intellectually — after yet another year in boarding school being yelled at by old, fat Scottish housemothers and competing all the time for grades. There, I was often in trouble, being messy and scoring low marks for our room’s neatness, which then required that I memorize Bible verses (yes) in order to even be allowed off campus for the weekend.
I attended summer camp for all eight weeks ages eight to 16, and went to three of them, all in northern Ontario, each about three hours by bus from my home city of Toronto. Each camp was all-girl, and one of the things it taught me is that smart, athletic, kind girls rock.
The counselors who took us out on 10-day canoe trips through Algonquin Park, battling rain and black flies, were female. They kept us alive!
I doubt I’d have been as comfortable in a Nicaraguan dugout canoe without it!
Competence was expected and excellence often the norm. Those are powerful lessons for any young girl.
If you come from a happy family, and/or have a safe, calm and lovely place to escape city smell, noise and humidity during the summer, camp isn’t probably very appealing.
But if you don’t, and also hunger for a place where all your talents can thrive — and the best camps do — it can be such a refuge.
It was for me. One reason I’m still so deeply comforted by nature is having spent so much time in it there: canoeing, hiking, sailing, swimming and living in a wooden cabin with the sound of the lake lapping on the rocks below. Sharing space with four or five or six girls I didn’t know was normal after boarding school.
And only in the safe harbor of camp was I able to fully become all the things I wanted to be: a singer, actress, sailor, friend, and even a leader of my peers. No school or classroom, anywhere, ever, allowed me such freedom, or gave me access to so many people who loved me, every year, for the quirky and creative kid I was, and would remain.
Camp gave me the confidence I might never have found elsewhere, and the guts to survive three years of high school bullying. I am grateful beyond measure for having had that experience.