Nice to see you again.
Mister Rogers was basically my first friend. Every day, he would come on our rabbit-eared television and sing to me (that's right – just me):
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
“Yes!” (that’s me whispering back to him)
Could you be mine?
I always looked forward to being a part of his neighborhood.
However, I sometimes take the beauty of my own neighborhood for granted.
Well, here we are, two more weeks into Crazytown, and every day feels like Groundhog Day. (Have I written that already? That would be fitting.) Mondays – Fridays are 99% the same, with some variation based on when I take a walk outside, when I do some kind of workout, what we have for dinner...Other than that, it’s one long blur. Weekends usually entail a few outings – nature walks and/or drives down roads I may or not have ever seen before.
Which brings me to this week’s “aha” moment: I have probably discovered more about the area I grew up in this past month than I have in my entire life.
These weekend discoveries began a few weeks ago, all thanks to Dennis. Our first weekend here, we drove to Sampson State Park. I’d been there once or twice for school picnics, but it has never been one of our “spots.” We drove all the way in and discovered a “lake trail.” The trail was pretty boring, but we had it to ourselves, and it led to the lake, where I taught Dennis the art of stone-skipping.
The next weekend, Dennis – ever the explorer (even without his “explorer shirt,” which, sadly, sits in our empty apartment along with about 90% of our clothing) – typed “parks” into Google maps and said, “What about Van Riper & Whitlock Nature Preserve?”
“It’s only a few miles from here!”
We hopped in the car, me doubtful and preparing him “to be underwhelmed.”
“I’m prepared to be whelmed!” he exclaimed, eyes wide.
As it turns out, we were both quite whelmed. It took us a few minutes to find the very subtly-marked trail around the corner from the tiny parking lot, but we landed on a ¼-mile path through ancient-looking woods that led all the way to the lake. Huge fallen trees covered in moss and babbling brooks, it was a place where I imagined fairies lived. The lake water was a brilliant Caribbean teal – a color I had never seen it before. We had somehow stepped into a parallel universe that apparently opened in 2007. Who knew?
This past weekend, we were blessed with the most beautiful weather we’ve had since being here – cloud free and 60 degrees – and Dennis and I drove to Taughannock State Park, a place I’ve been to more times than I can count. We parked near the North Point, close to where my mom and I walked a few weeks prior, and, again, stepped into a parallel universe.
“What is that?!”
We had walked to the end of the lawn and saw a set of stairs I had never seen before. Had I really never been to that part of the park before? Maybe I had and, as I and many others tend to do in familiar places, had not really looked around me.
We walked up the stairs and ended up in a campground that you can literally see from the road, but which had possibly never registered in my brain. Granted, my brain is in an undercooked Jello state lately, so perhaps I had seen it many times. Still, it all felt new to me. Who knew?
Today, Dennis and I drove through an area called Sheldrake, another area I’m very familiar with. I literally drove there almost every day the summer after high school, to the winery where I worked. However, today we turned left instead of right, so that Dennis could see a bed & breakfast. I assumed that the road ended there, but...it didn’t. It rounded to the left, and we ended up driving along a beautiful lakefront road. Who knew?! Apparently I did, as I’d been to a lakehouse on that road several times, but I didn’t remember that at all.
I’ve been a bit worried that I haven’t been “making the most” of this time. Then again, it doesn’t really feel like down time so much as...quieter time. Away from the hustle and bustle, not really going much of anywhere, but working just as hard as ever and just as, if not more, drained by the end of the week. I often don’t have much in me, physically, mentally, emotionally.
However, thanks to Dennis, we have explored the neighborhood I grew up in in ways I never have before. I’m seeing it all as if for the first time – and, sometimes, for the first time. We all have our normal routes, our habitual ways of moving through our world, through our neighborhood. If you've been anywhere long enough, you might need to remind yourself to actually take in your surroundings. Some people are better at it than others. I'm not always one of those people.
But these days, I’m looking more closely at every house we drive by, I’m noticing the colors of the endless fields – the shades of green and yellow, brown earth – and I’m taking more time to notice small changes in plants as spring slowly crawls in through the predominantly rainy weather. I even relished the beauty of our field walk through a hailstorm the other day.
The benefits of Corona times.
All this is to say, it’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood, in your neighborhood.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.