On Recognizing What We Have Seen in Where We Are Going


Since we last saw the hills around Saratoga a few days ago, they have become drab and mundane, the color of an unwatered suburban lawn, while further south the Catskills have grown equally tired and pedestrian. Did we really talk with any enthusiasm about wanting to visit either of these spots? Even the Hudson River Valley, where we have so often fantasized about moving to start an organic farm and/or a record shop (with a focus on opera and post-hardcore from the 1980s), has become impossibly tedious to consider; a grove of gnarled apple trees visible from the highway appears severely two-dimensional and disposable.

Only the sight of the George Washington Bridge, the magnificent towers of which hover over the Palisades Parkway, gives us courage; though the traffic is heavy on the bridge, the skyline in front of us is operatic to the extent that we can both contemplate it with a certain rapture even as our mind drifts back to Marker #2 on Whiteface Mountain:

“While conditions are so severe that trees cannot grow in our exposed alpine garden, the ground on the opposite side of the trail is sufficiently sheltered from the wind to allow Balsam Fir trees to survive. Awareness of these small differences in wind and temperature can have a practical application when, for example, you are choosing and planting flowers, shrubs and trees around your home.”

Suddenly we reach an understanding: the remote and extreme landscape of the mountain top is replicated in the eroded beauty of Washington Heights; just as one provides a refuge to the Balsam fir, the other offers us a (sheltered) alpine garden in which to bury our hidden life.

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