|Also, Dan is a Communist revolutionary|
Dan Kessler and Stephanie took the train from the city. Even though it is only a two-hour, scenic train ride in either direction, it is time and distance enough to present a barrier. Even were the travel instantaneous, there is something of the city that invites barriers. On the drive here, they spoke of neighborhoods and streets with a kind of mutual awareness, a gossipy tone about landmarks I had no way of knowing. The city changes you slightly, forces some inner evolution to compensate for underground travel and nights that never grow dark enough for natural sleep.
We wander through the Vanderbilt Estate (yes, those Vanderbilts) in Hyde Park, NY. I state that the scenery is familiar from Boscobel Restoration, in that it is in a forested slope ending in the Hudson River. Dan takes my statement further, positing that all those obscenely rich robber barons simply chose their lots along the Hudson the same way the kids pick a bedroom in a new house; the first one there gets it.
Even walking around this estate feels curiously like time travel to a version of the 1800s where all the inhabitants have vanished and were replaced by baffled tourists who move hesitantly on the grounds, as if a security guard (of which there are a sprinkling) or a ghost (of which there are likely more than we'd prefer to know) will tap them on the shoulder and admonish them over some unwitting faux pas. We three stay out of the houses, our concern more pastoral.
The day could not be lovelier, the temperature so frightfully perfect and the sun so unflinchingly bright that one could easily forget one has a body. It wouldn't take more than a suggestion to make one believe one had died and been sent to the afterlife. I do not know the lay-out of the estate, so I follow close to Dan and listen to stories of strangers on cruise ships making bad life decisions and having things work out anyway.
We wander through gardens, snapping pictures as though we were the first to discover these statues and shrubs. While all of this existed well before we were born, it is new to us and has the odor of discovery about it. We need to record our observations to relate to botanists and cartographers.
After the garden, we traipse down a hill toward a creek. Coming to meet us are two thoroughly soaked women and a man who was suspiciously drier. They look at me and smile. My trigger finger is itchy on my camera, because they are so beautiful in the moment (even if they would not have been beautiful outside of it, necessarily) that I want to capture them as if to better remember what this day truly was. They recommend that we stand under the waterfall as they had done, indifferent to the fact that they did not have a change of clothes with them. I am not worried about ruining the purity of the moment - it is honestly too vast for that - but I am not quick enough to stop them before they are gone on to another moment, leaving dark footprints behind on the pavement.
|The Devil has a smallish cold|
I slip my sandals off and check my footing against the riverbed. It is too slick with organic slime and too vigorous a current to even safely stand in. It's only in removing my foot again that I realize that the water is only a few degrees below my ability to tolerate it (short of resigning my whole body to it). Still, I dangle one foot over the bank and let it flow over me and, soon, Stephanie follows suit. It is a perfect moment in a perfect day and there is a feeling that is can almost exist outside of time, that the mundanity of their life in the city (his computers and her preschoolers) or mine in suburbia (being a writer on unemployment searching for a job) is washed away by the tide, obliterated in the solvent of something greater. It isn't much and, the moment we step away, my awareness of it fades.
As I went to pick up Dan and Stephanie from his Born Again mother's house earlier, there was graffiti I know she added to her yellow siding reading "Paradise Found!" Later, after we leave Vanderbilt, I see the same phrase in an antique store we visit for an hour. Both are wrong for me, I found a gasp of paradise sitting on a lichen mottled rock with my foot slowly losing feeling to the cold. We study dragonflies flitting from tiger lily to tiger lily on the stream later and lounge on the edge of a stone bridge, half my body a breath from toppling forty feet into a fern carpeted oblivion, but the day is only ever lovely, but not sacred, after my feet dry.
It is hard to not love life and swallow it whole on a summer day. While winter days fly by in a snowy haze, facilitated in no small part by the brevity of sunlight and our disinclination to exploit it for fear of frostbite, summer days increase delightfully, gradually, a moment of potential every day. The sun is brighter on our corn flakes, giving hope to what we can accomplish with our added minutes, as if through chemical activation. Even if we, of necessity, have to spend the better part of the daylight in fairly menial jobs to enjoy the later bliss more fully, the implication that the gloaming will come a touch later is enough to make the moments until freedom all the sweeter. Winter demands one fight for company, for something to do to fill the hours until Monday morning. The closer to summer, the greater the plethora of options spread before you, until Monday morning becomes a distant shore you can lazily sail toward rather than a whirlpool, swallowing you no matter the evasive maneuvers you try. Life is composed primarily of summer days, mere living only winter.
Soon in Xenology: Job hunting. 80s Night again. Rollerskating.