Thursday, August 9, 2007

City Mouse

Boston - the MIT building across the Charles River, an angel statue in Boston Gardens.

My husband was offered a job in a tiny New England town in the woods. It is an hour plus some out of Boston. I was thrilled. I thought it was the answer to the conundrum we had created over the past three years – what is next? Next for him was LA. It was not for me. Next for me was TBD, maybe stay in Minneapolis. That was not for him. We hoped this would be the angelic “third.” Even though it would be a year before I could join him full time while I transferred my design and field editing business to the East, it might be a shared vision. I am big on visions.

We went to check it out. “You will love the people,” said our liaison, our host. “But, you must see how you feel about the environs.” She is wise. We stayed in their exquisite early 19th Century Colonial home with pine floors surrounded by gardens planted with love by the homeowners, tucked into the woods. (See previous post for photos.) We gazed at the stars on Saturday night and I felt once again like I was ten, on the small family farm in Iowa where I grew up, the milky way and big dipper in plain view. It made we want to cry. And, yet, at the same time, my stomach felt in a knot, ready to bolt at the slightest threat, whether a bear or a bogeyman. It was profoundly humbling that my body had more awareness than my mind, but I didn't understand it at the time.

By Sunday, I could name it. I had no views, no vista as they say in Italian. I am from the Midwest, the Great Plains, with skies and horizons. There were no horizons here to mark my position relative to sky. It scared the living daylights out of me to be so deeply in the woods, twisting roads with no views at 40 mph. What is around the corner? What hides in the trees? I am good with directions and I couldn’t get my head around this place. There was not a north-south axis to be found.

On Monday we found the markers, the dairy that sells cream – 5 miles, the grocery –no organic meats – 10 miles, the only place to buy a cappuccino – 6 miles. I began to panic. Where is the doctor for my husband with diabetes? Where can he pick up a healthy meal in my absence? Where might I grab a Greek salad, juevos rancheros, a pad Thai when I visit? Where is the upholsterer? My painter, my plumber, my window coverings guy? The lighting store, the bedding shop, the Italian deli?

We went to Boston on Tuesday to see what it might hold for my future here. We parked at a distant subway stop and took the train into the city. I knew I was in trouble when I sat on the train, looked about and was suddenly more at home here than I had been in the woods. We hit the ground running in Boston. When my sense of direction landed me squarely at the Chanel boutique on Newbury Street as the first stop, my husband was sufficiently persuaded that I am a city girl. Truth be told, he is a city boy. We walked to the Charles River, sat on the park bench and watched the joggers. We meandered to Fenway Park, found an Irish pub and burrowed into its dark womb for a Guinness. We strolled Commonwealth; jotting down the phone numbers of apartments for rent, imagining this was the answer to our prayers. We danced in and out with the people on the streets; we admired the architecture pushing against one another, the romantic expanse of steel bridges crossing the Charles. I would have an apartment in Boston and work there and Lee could spend his weeks in New Hampshire, joining me in Boston for the weekend. We thought we had a deal.

Delusion is a strange thing – you get sort of revved up and come up with crazy ideas. Then, in the midst of sleep, in the darkness of the night, the truth comes out, panic sets in and you see what a folly it all is. Once we snapped out of it, at two in the morning, we realized we could not afford an apartment in Boston and a life in New Hampshire at the same time. Besides, that is just six more years of living apart, which we have done for the past three years. I could not visit him in a house in the woods without wireless, yoga classes and proscuitto within walking distance.

We flew home and could breathe. Today we declined the job offer, saddened by our compelling and united inability to make it work because the job was good and the people even better. But we are city people.

Today I met a client to shop for bathroom hardware at a local retail store. Then, we met at the stone supplier to look at her marble, fifteen minutes away. Next, I stopped for gas, dropped the video, made an auto deposit at my coop, picked up organic chicken and fixings for dinner and dropped fabric at the upholsterer. This was all within six to seven miles of my home, most of it within two, and took a total of three hours of my time, two and one half of that billable. I have never so appreciated my home.

We live differently and where we live matters at the deepest level. Diversity is alive and well in America in spite of all the strip malls and conglomerates taking over our suburbs. There are the mountains, the seacoasts, the plains, the canyons and the woods. All are beautiful and all are different. For me, I need good food, good people and I need a horizon, a marker of sunrise and sunset. I need to know when, like the people in Key West, the day is officially done and it is time to applaud.

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