Exurbitude refers to my state of mind: with my family, I’ve purposely moved outside the city, out beyond the suburbs, to the exurban fringes. From here, only the mad commute. And all of us, though we came from Brooklyn, or Queens, the Bronx, Yonkers — even Manhattan — no longer feel quite like city folk. And we’re not quite suburbanites.
In my case, it was a love for the green stuff (trees) that brought me this way. A love for North. I’ve traced my way back and forth up and down the Hudson Valley more than any other trip I’ve taken — I schooled up there in Albany, I’ve gone to a little resort in the Adirondacks on and off for more than thirty years, I’ve hiked to the river’s source and I have friends and family up and down its reaches. Those happy accidents of geology that gave us this valley, and the climactic changes that gave us this river, have shaped my life. How could I stay in the concrete lands with a family, given that fact?
And so we moved – first to Tarrytown, then to Monroe, and now here. Each time placing distance between us and New York City…mental, physical, cultural distance. The unbroken tie remains the economic. So I go to New York five days a week or so, and I work in the office, and I am among the city people, and they are attuned to different cycles than I am.
I come to work in my boots and down vest like some kind of idiot hiker lost in town, with stories of turkeys gobbling off in the woods that very morning while I was out for a run. They look at me doubtfully when I tell them about the bear. They think I’m talking about coming back from a business trip when I mention that I watched the sun come up over the mountains that morning while I rode the ferry. We get the organic farm, they get the organic farmstand. They get rain, we get snow. They get heat, we get tomatoes. They get rats, we get deer.
But here’s me (writing from the train, in fact), suspended between those worlds. I’m us and them. The clown and the slicker. Sometimes I feel like a messenger, a mailman, a bridge between two mindsets. I want to tell the human vibe and the hum of the city about the natural flow of the water through my cellar, or explain the waft of skunk that arises at evening while you’re out looking up at the stars for a moment after taking out the garbage. In town there’s the powerful thrill of money and art — I was immersed in it just two hours ago! — that’s hard to map onto the lone convenience store spilling its flourescence onto the sidewalk.
Tonight a friend and I went driving around town, looking for the right combination of elements to spot eastern Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) coming downhill to breed in vernal pools.* We didn’t find any, and I’m almost thankful. I’m not sure I’d know what to do with the information.
* Interestingly, that link says they don’t occur further north than Long Island, but my friend has seen them not far from here in past years. And he’s a scientist.