Coming Up for Air

Revisions have been sent to my lovely editor, and so I’ve spent the past few days reacquainting myself with books, with friends, with crafts (sewing! poorly . . . ). Yesterday, my high school bestie and her boyfriend came to visit and we hiked through Minnewaska State Park, over the Shawangunk Ridge. The ground below was made of grey stone. As we walked up and up, the air cooled. All we could see around us were conifers, the still-naked tops of trees below. As we stood on a cliff face scattered with pine needles, I kept saying, “Where are we?” and “I can’t believe I live here.”

And in truth, I still can’t. I’m only three hours away from the place where I grew up. But this feels like a place where one could embark on an epic fantasy journey. When Jordan and I drive past farmlands, apple orchards and sheep fields, we still turn to one another and remark, “I’m so happy we found this place.”

New Jersey was great. It will always be, in many ways, home, but when you live there, I think you’re always trying to fit it into your mold–to find the things that appeal to you in the land of strip malls and regular malls and pavement (unless you are a person who loves those things. I think I’m not, but it took me 28 years to learn that). Back home, I had to search for fistfuls of trees between highways. Here, it’s the opposite. There are small tangles of highways between trees. And I am increasingly a country mouse. All I need now is a garden, a few acres of land to smooth down a path through the woods, a little house with a fireplace to call my own.

A few weeks ago, I took a break from revisions to go (finally) get my New York driver’s license. I drove to Kingston, spent 20 minutes in the most pleasant DMV I’ve ever visited, where the employees made jokes and were kind. After, I went to a little cafe across the street, had a really delicious sandwich, listened to the girl behind the counter make small talk with some old ladies, read the newspaper, felt really, truly at peace. In the places where I lived before, I felt like I was a scientist, always searching for the good. It’s not that those places were bad–it’s that they weren’t for me. Here, the good feels self-evident. I feel immersed in it. And there’s been nothing yet here to challenge that. New Jersey might have been home, but I’m Home now, capital H. And I’m so, so very glad to be here.

(On the way home from Kingston, I turned off the main highway, drove past neatly-tilled fields and through wild woods where houses sat nestled amid rock. And suddenly the sky opened up and I was on the edge of the Hudson River, looking out to the other side, and to the lighthouse that sat in the middle on an island. This is what I mean–this is where I live. It still hasn’t settled in. In a way, I hope it never does.)

In other news, Mad Men premieres tonight, and I guess you could say I’m excited. I had a dream this morning that it returned as a cartoon full of product placements. Betty and Don were still married. A nightmare, I guess. I suppose I’m a little anxious. I hope it will still be awesome.