Sunday, 29 December 2013

Dry stone walls and second-growth forest says Rockland County woodland like nothing else. All this area was farmland, fields divided by the stone walls, and it's astonishing how quickly the forest takes over again. Only 40 years ago the land to the right of this stone wall was a field and now? The old metal posts of the baseball catcher's net make a magic picture - appearing if you look for them, disappearing if you don't.

Coming back here is always a mixed bag of tricks. There are so many memories at every point that tug at my heart and yesterday, walking up Main Street, Nyack, I thought I saw the ghost of my teenage self come skipping out of a door I used to go through. Is that possible? It actually made
me stop in my tracks. And then, as I walked on, I thought about how we who remember this area - and others who remember their areas from years ago - are looking for and seeing just what they want to, ignoring all the rampant development that's taken place since.  

Here on the right is Nyack, New York. A town that was once mecca to me: the place where I could be sure of seeing at least one person I knew if I went there. The place, as a teenager, where I wanted to just hang, just in case... Now, I go back once a year, sit in the corner window seat of the best pizza place on the planet (no arguments now!) and watch a little bit of the world go by and think: "Isn't this all I ever really wanted to do? Sit in Turiello's, eating pizza and looking out for familiar faces?"

Of course, there's so much more to life and, like the Tom Petty song: 

"She couldn't help thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to..."

The call to leave pulled me away and set up the tug of war inside me that has never left: go, stay, go, stay, go, return...

But enough inward reflection! Nyack was also a stop along the Underground Railway, that network that helped slaves from the south escape north. This little garage I found with the words 'Underground Railway' painted on its sign, is not an authentic piece of history, but it is close to the Nyack Brook, which was one of the waterways used as a landmark.

As a child, when I heard the words 'Underground Railway', I pictured something like the New York City subway system. It was nothing so literal: really, it was a series of safe houses, paths, places and landmarks that the escaping people would be guided by. It was underground in the sense that it was secret...

I like the little window at the top of this house. It says: This is what houses were given once upon a time. Useful adornments, like shutters and curves. Homes were beautiful and showcased the architecture of the countries immigrants brought with them. Now? This house has a for sale sign on it with the words 'commercial use only' underneath. It is hard by busy Route 59 and surrounded by a motel parking lot and a Midas tire garage.
 I'll finish with one last picture of the woods up in New City and the stream where I spent hours perfecting my stepping-stone technique as a child.

Good-bye for now, New York State.

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