The trip to Hyde Park was good in so many ways and although I can't say it was particularly restful, it was reinvigorating.
I overscheduled myself from the very beginning, trying to catch up with everyone and do everything in an impossibly short time. Then, when plans began to go awry while I was in transit, I felt a little worried and stressed just by the logistics of everything, frazzled before I even arrived. Time spent with friends was far too rushed that first day.
But when I went to to the Hyde Park house I was instantly calmed. I saw this place with new eyes, eyes that were no longer clouded by the various other stories that had been going on in my life when I left. The house itself was good and in good shape. I thought I would buy it again, if my life were on a different course. But even though I still own the property, it is not my house anymore. And I don't miss it.
I was happy to see a few flowers, happy to see that a few tulips were still blooming. And my beloved hellebores were lush with flowers.
The fern-leaf peony was about to open. Perhaps it is still open today for the open house. I was tempted to dig it up and bring it home to Tennessee. But I did not.
The pool was opened. Chemicals were added. A few things were purchased. After all of this I left. I was supposed to meet a friend in NYC. She got her weekends mixed up. Always late, but a little later than usual I sent a text only to get "That was this weekend?" in response. Out. Of. Town. Oh well.
When I got the message I was in a bar waiting, negroni in hand. At first I felt at loose ends. I thought of going back to my hotel and ordering room service. That is what the Mardel of just a few months ago might have done. During the past few years I have admittedly drawn inward. Always introverted, I had retreated further into myself to the point that I haven't always been quite sure how to reach back out. Instead, I decided that I had been given an opportunity. I sat back and savored my drink slowly, watching the crowd. There were many groups of people talking. Some were talking business. Some were just kicking back and relaxing. One girl, obviously a friend of the hostess, would be animated when her friend had a few minutes to stop by but otherwise looked down at her drink, forming an island around herelf in the crowd. On another side of the bar were several single guys, drink in hand, frantically attacking their smartphones, scanning their networks, trying to find a connection. One managed to link to someone he knew and work his way into a group on the far side of the bar, relief palpable in his every motion. The others finished their drinks and left.
I could have been one of those people. Might have been. But I decided to follow a different path. I went for a walk. I watched people hurrying home from work. I watched friends laughing together. I watched people walking dogs. I slowly breathed in the New York air and looked at the buildings and in the store windows. At one intersection three women were trying to hail a cab. When a cab pulled over, the women, who were apparently not traveling together, got into a discussion over which one of them should take it. The cabbie gave up and departed. Only women would do that, even in New York. It made me smile.
By then I realized I was hungry. I passed a sushi place that was quite busy but there was a seat at the bar. I am always attracted to busy places when I am alone. I sat and ate, quietly at first, trusting the chef to give me something good, but allowing myself to begin chatting with my neighbors about the food, sake, and the protocols of using soy and wasabi with one's sushi. This lead to more random and frivolous discussions. It all turned out to be a perfect evening, exactly what I needed, and the highpoint of my trip.
I was just another annonymous person in a big city on a Friday night, and I had fun. I had forgotten how much I like to travel. I had forgotten how much I like to see new places, to observe yes, but with an open mind, and a willingness to interact. It had been a long time since I had been able to experience that side of travel, the wonder at the new, either alone or with a partner. My days of having a partner in observation are gone. New things became frightening and overwhelming to G long before most people were willing to accept changes in his everyday demeanor. And this changed me as well: Forced to cope, often without support, I drew inward and essential parts of myself got locked away. This past weekend in NY it is as if I found a key to some long-locked door, which when opened, was filled with light.
That little spark has remained. I like the way people here are more open, more likely to greet strangers with a kind word. I may have shrugged it aside a few weeks ago, but now I find myself discussing recipes with the clerk at the food market, chatting with the postal clerk, discussing wine with another customer at the local liquor store, or shoes with a deacon at my church. Well, there has not been a complete transformation. I still find safety in annonymity. It is easy to master easy-going banter when there is no risk involved. It is the middle territories that are hard, the groups that are neither strangers nor close friends, where the risks seem higher. Somehow those risks don't seem so insurmountable this week. And for that I suppose I have to thank New York.