Before we had the house upstate I often felt annoyed by the way any life out of doors in the city had to be shared. One could never be alone outside. A walk, a run, a bike ride, a picnic--all had to be done in the mix of sharing space with over 10 million people. I felt all squirmy and irritated and invaded. I wanted that still, quiet feeling of being alone with trees and wind and empty space. I wanted to be able to walk alone with my thoughts without bumping into three people I know per block. We've never had our own yard in Brooklyn as some people do, but even if we did have one I think I'd always be aware of the five other yards abutting it and the windows facing down on me, of being enclosed rather than free.
Now that we have the green and purple house we hate to miss any chance to be there and feel that great space all around us. Declan and I took our longest walk in the woods to date, after 3 years of having the house, meandering through all the different terrains and finding all sorts of treasures like a Bridge to Terabithia-like mammoth tree bridge, a tree with crazy roots like curled sinister witches fingers, the skull of a deer we found dead last year (hunters, we think), and a mysterious road that led into a giant field filled with exploding milkweed pods. We stayed a long time, blowing the silk and seeds into the wind, watching the turkeys cluck away through the tall grasses and the lone hawk circling above, and then found our way back home by the landmarks we'd selected. Nary an "I'm tired, I'm scared, I'm bored, can we go home now?" was uttered. Instead, "that was a really fun walk."
But I also notice the total absence of communal living that comes with the city. The self-reliant, secret-driveway, life-in-the-woods-away-from-civilization experience gets a little lonely for a city girl. I miss the sharing of space, the ways our lives come together with others constantly--at the schoolyard, the market, the coffee store with the tables in back that's our home away from home, in the parks we've going to since infancy, on our stoop and along our block where we have lemonade stands and ride our bikes and scooters, and so on. As life overflows out into the public spaces we all feel richer. It's all ours. It's a curious thing to go from feeling deprived because of the sharedness to now feeling a surplus of ownership. And this even when we still live all crammed into our tiny third-floor walk-up with three kids!
One of my favorite city times is going to the green market in Grand Army Plaza on Saturday, filling bags with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and bread and apple cider, and then walking into Prospect Park, putting down a blanket, and hanging out, eating the goodies, with everyone else on the great lawn, looking up at the tall buildings ringing the brilliant, sumptuous green space around us.
This is what we did a couple weekends ago. Down together on the grass, eating apples and playing baseball and horsing around, feeling that special thrill of being able to go minutes from our apartment to the great outdoors that belongs to all of us. Here, there was nothing else to do, nowhere else to go, and so we were just in this one time and place, filling it out. Eva ate a peach, Declan practiced his fly ball catching, Mairead took apart my wallet, Tim got mauled, and we all watched the enormous family congregating under the next tree unpack and create a first-birthday party for the screaming baby girl, watched a couple play an aggressive game of volleyball, the guys on the hill fly their kites, and two girls laughingly bringing their cat out for a stroll on a leash. It was good to be around all of them, together but separate. It's funny how it not only makes you more aware of your own unit-ness as a family, and also reminds you of how much a citizen of a larger collective you are. I miss that in the country.