Entry Date On-Line Journal - September - December 2002
September 17th   December 3rd  

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12/03/02 Tuesday
It's a long time since I have written, and my brother was asking me when I would put out something new. So here it is, Rich! I have not been writing in part because I was very busy learning how to drive. I began lessons last summer and went through phases of being excited and then apprehensive. I have never driven, and so this has been a big step.

Sometimes when I returned from a lesson this summer, I felt as though I would never be able to drive, or want to. But finally, I began to enjoy it a bit. This happened for the first time when my instructor, Louise, and I went out to Hurley. It's only about five miles from here - a little section of wonderful stone houses that Marlene and I had tried, and failed, to find a year or so ago. I had these mixed feelings all through the early fall, and they combined with apprehension about the coming road test. I took the test in mid-October in the near-by town of Catskill. We were in the middle of the pouring rain of a nor'easter, but I passed. I'd already found the car I wanted - a copper brown 1998 Saab - and two days after the road test, I drove my car home.

Then I began a whole series of firsts: the first drive in my own car; my first time driving a car without someone else with me; getting gas for the first time, and getting it by myself for the first time (which took a lot longer.) There was the first time I got lost - which taught me never to go out without maps in the car. Perhaps my biggest discovery was that driving appeals to me in the same way that video games do: it involves polishing a physical skill through instantaneous feedback. Of course the consequences of errors are more serious .

Several things really surprised me - especially how the attention required just to drive safely really blunts my awareness of everything unrelated to that one task. Places I have been to a number of times and could direct someone else through with ease, barely seem familiar when I am driving.

In order to get my driving skills right into my muscles and bones as quickly as possible, so that they won't be lost if snow keeps me off the roads in the coming winter months, I've been driving as much as I can. Just about every other day I go out for an hour or so. Over my morning tea I plan out a thirty or forty mile trip, and write down all the turns and route numbers. There are really terrific practice roads around here - my favorite is Hurley Mountain Road. I can get to it easily, it's in very good shape, with mid and edge lines, and it has little traffic. It is a roughly north-south road running along the bottom of a line of hills just west of Esopus Creek, about twenty miles from its start at Route 28 to its end on Tongore Road. Along the way, on the eastern side are great fields where corn is grown in the summer, old farms, and little brooks weaving their way through. On the western side, there are the hills and the small roads that climb into them: Eagles Nest Road, Ashokan Road, Lapla Road. Now that I'm becoming more familiar with these roads, I want to find good places where I can pull the car over, get out and take some photographs. Even though the coming winter has taken all the leaves off the trees, there is still so much that is beautiful. I hope, within the next couple of weeks to have images to add here.
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09/17/02 Tuesday
Summer moves on to its end - a sure sign arrived today in the form of L.L. Bean's Christmas Catalog. Well perhaps the really hot days are finally over.

One thing I noticed clearly for the first time this year was how the robins suddenly stop singing. Spring and summer days are filled with their song, which I love to hear - it's as old fashioned and comforting as fresh cider. There are many more robins here than in Brooklyn, where the mocking birds appeared dominant - sounding teasingly like robins sometimes, but then going off in a totally different song, wild, and often quite manic. In any case, suddenly in late August the robins fall silent. The mornings seem empty until gradually the insects, locusts and katydids, start to take over - a completely different tone - more primitive. There are also crows occasionally muttering and talking among themselves, and blue jays with their raucous calls.

All this about birds makes me think of the wren that used to sit in the chicken-wire fence at the end of my Grandmother's garden as I weeded the asparagus bed in the early summer mornings, that summer I spent with her. The wren sang - so close to me I could see the fine pattern of its markings - a waterfall of notes washing over me, making my work even easier.

Tonight, meditating, I fell into a strange trap or byway. The image came up of the apartment on Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights that I almost rented in 1979. And I began to think how my life would have been different if I'd moved there, which in fact I almost did. The first difference - I would never have found Puppy (my cat.) He showed up one evening in the lobby of the building I moved to instead of the one on Henry Street.

So - no Pup - and looking back with this strange sort of binocular vision, at two possible lives, I felt now quite viscerally a double sense of loss - not only that of Pup's death two years ago, but the possibility of never having found him at all. My two worlds, the one I am in, and the one I might have been in diverging in a dizzying way as I watched.

The Henry Street place was smaller than my apartment on Third Street - would Marlene have still been able to move in with me two years later? Without her, there would have been no need for more space, no move to Kensington, no following move to Windsor Place. Would that have mattered? Who that I know now would I not have met? Jane - and anyone else? Marlene would still have moved to Cleveland to care for her mother, and then returned to the Hudson Valley. I would still have gone to work for Con Edison - I would still have been able to retire in 2000, and would have moved here. My lives seem to converge again. But no Pup, no Pup.

I did manage to let this tangle of thoughts dissolve - but its arrival and vividness surprised me. Meditation is surprising.

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