October 12, 2009
Fall, as you like it
It is a crisp fall day in this part of the Northeast, up the Hudson River just miles from the Great Gotham – New York City – but in my mindset I do not see nor feel nor taste nor smell any connection. I am wrong, of course, since this county, Rockland, is now the home mostly of ex-urbanites. My own family, too, came from that direction, although enough decades ago that the cityscape was far different.
I grew up in a pre-Tappan Zee Bridge semi-rural, farming and light manufacturing community, not yet the site of hundreds of cookie-cutter housing developments that were supposed to continue the old neighborhood connection as families sought grass and air and good schools for their post-war families. Such realization occurred, but in early, small developments only. Today’s Heather Lane and Michael Court and Sparrow Run are streets of anonymity, and it is possible to live on them for 30 years and not know a neighbor by sight, let alone name. The lack of front porches, the utter necessity of cars to get anywhere don’t make for social discourse, meeting one another.
If your children are in elementary school, you might see the neighbors at events there, or at sports activities, but soon enough high school graduation comes, and the fellow or woman you talked to once or twice 12 years ago is now in row 3 watching his daughter move on as you see your son get his diploma. You and your neighbor probably will not meet again.
In my own lucky time in Rockland, before suburbia, I was fortunate to know some neighbors, to sit on then-available front porches, to walk to stores in a downtown, to kick my feet in fall leaves, to take in the crisp air without flavoring by exhaust as yet another SUV goes off to yet another strip shopping center. Fall here and then had a particular smell, too, the wonderful musk dampness of overturned wet leaves; the sharp pungency of bursting colors; the woodsy hint of winter straw, soon to be gathered for insulation in children’s winter huts.
I make no apologies for my dreaminess about and nostalgia for the county of my youth; I appreciate the added diversity a bridge and time have brought; I rail at “progress” but applaud opportunity for others, though the net result of poor planning – deteriorated downtowns, crowded roads, stressed resources, high taxes, anonymity – must forever be assailed if right is to make its point.
But it is fall, and the great joy in that has its interpretation for the individual. I have stressed mine, and now I say may all enjoy it as they wish, as the season reveals its ties to one and another, maybe all.