riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Catskills: First Impressions

After a 3-week, 4500 mile road trip across the U.S.A. with my dog, I’m finally in the Catskills of upstate New York. Yay!

And OH MY G-D.

Ever since arriving last Tuesday, I’ve been in a pleasant but no less real state of culture shock. Not surprising for someone who just traveled from a city of roughly 9 million people to a town with less than 5,000. I had fantasized what it would be like to be here countless times. Now I’m here and it’s… sort of everything I imagined it would be, and a few things I didn’t.

It’s only been a few days but these are some initial impressions (and images):

It’s quiet. So quiet I can literally hear the buzzing in my ears. This is great for concentration (why I came here), and also great for sleeping. Oddly, I’ve been sleeping like a rock and waking in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Unable to fall back asleep, I get on my computer to write (tonight at 2:30 a.m.) then go back to bed a few hours later. During the day, I’m full of energy.

It’s loud. Yes, it’s both quiet and loud… with the sound of insects, birds, wind, rustling leaves and the occasional passing car, truck or motorcycle.

It’s remote. The other day I had to drive 45 minutes (one way) and pay $2.00 in tolls to get to my bank. So much is done online these days, it might not be that much of an issue, but it’s definitely an adjustment. I’m thinking I’ll have to coordinate trips into the larger towns to coincide with other errands.

It’s beautiful. I’ll post some proper pictures later, but let’s just say I’ve had to stop the car a few times to take in some of the scenery. This is only a small hint of what’s to come.

Durham - nature 2

It’s green, so very green. I’m grateful to have arrived in early fall so I can witness the leaves turning. Right now, I’m really enjoying all the lush green.

Durham - lush green

It’s alive. Farm animals, wildlife, critters… even the dead skunk on the side of the road was interesting.

Durham - ruby looking at sheepDurham - deer in roadDurham - deer

It’s clean. I haven’t seen one piece of litter or trash — which is not to say I haven’t seen junk in people’s yards, but that’s different.

Durham - free stuff

It smells good. The air is pure and fresh. On rainy, chilly days like today the air was filled with the scent of burning firewood and wet grass. The other day I walked by someone’s house and smelled the sweet buttery scent of an apple pie baking. I actually paused in front of the window and when the lady inside looked at me, I waved. “Smells delicious!”

It’s motorcycle friendly. There are bikers everywhere. In fact, this weekend there was a motorcycle festival in town, complete with live music, spaghetti wrestling and other activities. I didn’t go. But my bike just arrived yesterday, and I can’t wait to ride!

motorcycle in durham

It’s really dark at night. The other night I drove home after dark and needed my high beams the whole time. I try not to think of slasher movies when walking at night. Actually, I try not to walk at night.

It’s friendly. Some people are quicker to talk to me than others, but those who have were extremely friendly. People have given me their phone numbers, invited me to events and introduced me to other folks within minutes of meeting.

It’s intellectual and creative. I’ve received more bookstore and library recommendations in the past five days than I have in 19 years living in Los Angeles, and heard there are many other writers and artists up here.

It’s cheap. Not only are the prices of necessities and services lower, but there are fewer opportunities to spend money. I’m not eating out, going to the movies, walking by stores or cafes. I literally haven’t reached for my wallet to buy anything in three days.

I’m excited to learn more about my new home, meet more people, and get a ton of work done.

Here’s to settling in. 🙂

 

 


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Little Patch of Green

I miss many aspects of my residency time in Vermont: the beautiful vistas, the quiet, the crisp fresh air, the simplicity of the one-stop-light-two-bar town. I miss being surrounded by other artists, talking about and seeing art every day, the unlimited writing time, privacy and coziness of my office, the lack of responsibilities other than my work-study dishwashing job. I also miss seeing my puppy run around freely at her Vermont doggie daycare.

Home on the ranch

Home on the ranch

She lived on a ranch where the men in the family (grandfather, father, son) work in construction and logging. Their land included 50 acres of woods and a pond, which was frozen when we were there, but in the summer the dogs can swim in it. You can see the small dock below.

VT doggie daycare dogs

When I would come to visit her, every day for 1.5 hours, we did one of two things: play ball or go walking in the woods. On both activities we were always accompanied by the owner’s dog, Izzy.

Izzy, pack leader

Izzy

Izzy was the pack leader of the daycare dogs. She literally policed the other dogs and sort of took Ruby under her wings. She was also faster than all the other dogs and could find a ball buried in 3 feet of snow. I miss Izzy most of all, especially seeing her and Ruby together.

Ruby and Izzy waiting for ball

Ruby and Izzy waiting for ball

Now perhaps you can understand why I felt some pangs of guilt for taking her back to the urban jungle of Los Angeles where our “yard” is a small cement patio.

The good news is we recently learned of an abandoned field in our neighborhood. A neighbor told me about it when our dogs were saying hello to each other.

The other day Ruby and I went to investigate.

It’s a large grassy field, completely enclosed. Apparently, a house used to sit there but was torn down for some unknown reason and nothing’s been built there since. Best of all, it’s literally around the corner from where we live. The only reason I hadn’t seen it before is because it’s not on our normal route. I was surprised that it’s as empty as it is. No broken glass, trash or homeless people. Ruby can run around freely, chasing balls and smelling all there is to be smelled.

I don’t know how long this will last. Technically, we are trespassing. But we make sure to be quiet in the mornings, and we’re not the only ones who go there. The other day we met another woman and her dog. The woman told me that the adjacent neighbors are aware of these trespassing city dogs and their owners, and as long as we’re not being loud, trashing the place or doing drugs, no one seems to care.

Vermont it ain’t, but it’s our little patch of green for now.

Ruby in field2

Ruby profile in field