Place and environment are on my mind.
Last week I was in New York City for my graduate program. Our schedule was jammed tight with publishing meetings, and then I added a few appointments and coffees to round out the experience. I ran from Monday through Wednesday afternoon, right up until the time I dropped onto the plane, still sweaty and wet from hauling my bags in the rainy downpour.
It’s been five years since I left Manhattan. That’s right, I moved west in June 2006.
While I have walked its familiar streets many times since, this latest visit to New York left me feeling more an outsider than the insider I have always considered myself. Tourists still stopped me for directions (read: I look like I know where I’m going, and people always comment on my “New York” sensibility). And yet, whether in a taxi, riding the subway or bus, or walking, my preferred method of transportation, the noises, construction, dirt, congestion, smells and pitched rush of the city plain irritated me. Downtown. Uptown. Brooklyn. Harlem. It was the same wherever I went.
Has the city changed, I wondered, or have I?
I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in-between.
My life in Denver, Colorado is wholly different than the one I left behind in Manhattan. Apart from a new family here with a new husband and two stepsons, my days are slower, calmer. I see less people and am rarely sandwiched amidst large crowds. I walk in my neighborhood or in the parks or along 17th Street with outstretched arms; no need to clutch my purse tight against my body. What’s more, no tall buildings block my view; my gaze is wide. I can see! Sometimes I even forget to lock my car in our driveway.
Manhattan will always hold great meaning for me: it’s where I lived for eighteen years, eleven of them with my first husband. Manhattan is where I gained my independence after college, where I began my career in public relations and sometime later as a writer, where I lived as a young and hopeful married woman, where I became a mother, and toward the end of my time there, where I added a new identity: that of widow and mourner.
Home is both a place and a feeling. For me, Denver is where my past and present have come together. And I’m darn lucky.
How has your sense of place changed?