always hoping it’s the last one

The time has come to tell some news. I am moving away from Austin on June 22.

I’ve lived here since late November, 2012 primarily because I just needed to be near my daughter and her family. They had just lost Gracie, and I had just lost everything, and I was afraid for my daughter and wanted to help her however I could — and for myself, I needed to be around family. But of course at first she had to help me. I told myself a happy little lie, then: I think it’s good for her, in the immediacy of her grief, to have to shop with me to set up a whole new life. I kind of believed it, until I would look at her shattered face and I knew what it was costing her, the life and energy she simply did not have but was mustering, for me. I made myself a solemn promise, then, that I would never again willingly put myself in a position to have to start over from scorched earth. Never again. I would not just walk away from the things of a life, sell them, throw them away, give them away, leave myself with a suitcase of clothes and nothing else, like Timid Frieda (there she goes / with her valises / held so tightly in her hand).

A few months later, Marc and I started trying to find a way to keep a version of our marriage going. We gradually found our way to the life I’ve been living ever since, the one where I live in two places, here in Austin for 18 days, there in NYC with him for 12. Big travels together three times a year. In most ways it was the best of all worlds: I still had my lovely little home (with time and space just for ME), my beloved daughter and her growing family just right there, my wonderful poetry group and various book clubs, and a host of dear friends, most especially including Nancy, who lives right next door and who has been one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. I got to be here through Katie’s pregnancy with Oliver, and then the start of his life; through her pregnancy with Lucy, and now her new life. I got to help them, hang out with them, be easy. I got to be with her and them as they found their way back to life, and as I did, too.

But it’s hard, it’s been hard. Constantly uprooting my life has taken a toll. An every-two-week reboot, for 4.5 solid years, exhausting. Neither Marc nor I seemed to want me to return to our very small apartment in New York, and I’d made that promise to myself.

My work has been so negligible and my income so unsteady, I was exploring all the possibilities since I didn’t feel like I could keep affording the place I’d rented all these years. Could I move in with Marnie and Tom? We had very sincere conversations about it, and I’ll never forget Tom’s quick, moist-eyed invitation, and the delight in Marnie’s eyes at the thought of a tiny house for me in their front yard. The beauty of getting to be Ilan’s everyday Pete, of being real help to my daughter, of making my own small contribution to her doing her work. Or could I just find a tiny little studio apartment here in Austin somewhere? Whatever happened, my life had to change, I had to move again. It would be move number 82. (I hope I don’t hit 100 before I die.)

Finally Marc proposed the most perfect idea, and it was like a clap of thunder in its clarity and obvious solution: we would buy a cabin in the Catskills and I would live there. He can come up on weekends — lots of people in the city do that — and I can go into NYC whenever I want, for however long, but my place of residence will be that house.

like paradise — I remember the chill in the summer air from the cold stream

When I was a little girl, and then a young woman reading the Foxfire books, I’d read about making baskets, for instance, using materials collected from nature. Only they were never materials that grew in Texas: they were cattails, and reeds, and grasses…..of a kind that grow in Appalachia. And the Catskills. So the place has lived in my imagination most of my life. When I moved to NYC in 2005, Marc and I made very regular pilgrimages upstate to a wonderful little town named Phoenicia, to see the autumn foliage, to see spring starting to emerge. The first time I went to Woodstock I saw that little cabin hanging out on a rock over a stream that I mentioned a short while ago, and oh how I wanted that little cabin. I wanted it into my bone marrow. In the years since, that has been my imaginary home. I’ve never wanted a mansion, never understood that desire: my imaginary home was a cabin, a bungalow, a small place of my very own.

And so I move into the option that feels just about as perfect as can be, my own home in the Catskills, just down the highway from Phoenicia. I can fly to see my Austin family and my Chicago family as regularly as I like and still not be as disrupted as I’ve been. I can make regular pilgrimages to them, stay with them a week at a time, each, and soak up those people I love so dearly…..without disrupting their lives so profoundly. Without having to lean on them when they are at this burgeoning and financially tight stage of their lives. I can drive into NYC, or take a bus or the train, at a moment’s notice. Finally, I won’t always be in the wrong place at the wrong time! I won’t miss the PEN Festival, the New Yorker Festival, performances I want to see. I can see Marc every single week — but as he said, we will each still have our own time and space. He needs that as much as I’ve learned that I do. And we will have an investment, instead of simply setting fire to money, as we’ve done on my rent ($75K while I’ve been here!).

I walk this road every single autumn. Every one, for the last 12 years. It looks like the street my new house is on.

Nearby Woodstock has a very vibrant arts community, and a glance at the Meetup groups suggests that I’ll find people pretty easily. Poets, writers, artists, performers, my tribe lives there too. Cold, snowy winters. Red-orange autumns. Chilly, wet springs. Green firefly-lit summers.

My life, how many different lives I’ve had. I never dreamed I would actually get to live in the Catskills, but here it comes. I never dreamed I could live there and in New York City — not individually, and certainly not both. My life has taught me so many things, including the fact that nothing at all is permanent (except, I think, my love for my kids). Who knows where else my life will take me before it’s all said and done, but while I am having the life I’m about to have, I look forward to eating it up. To watching closely as it changes day by day. To taking pictures, to hiking in the woods, to cozying up on snowy days or cross-country skiing off my deck and onto the trails crisscrossing the forest around our house. To Marc’s garden, that idea makes me giggle with happiness. To learning the names of birds, trees, plants, wildlife. To seeing black bears (lots of black bears apparently), bobcats, weasels, porcupines, coyotes, gray wolves, eastern coyotes, gray and red foxes, river otters, whitetail deer, ravens, crows, wild turkeys, great horned owls, screech owls, bald eagles, lots of songbirds. To the contrast between a real city and the most beautiful country, and to continuing to be dazzled in my beloved NYC. My daily life will be a great many things, including some icky aspects I don’t know about yet but I’m sure I’ll discover, and I look forward to all of them. I look forward to sharing it all here.

one of the two creeks in our back yard
The other of our two creeks
This shot from one corner of the deck shows the woods around the house, and the shape of the surrounding mountains.
The downstairs is a big, bright, open space — deck off the house to the right, the length of the house, a bright living room with lots of windows, a half bath, and a fabulous kitchen — wood burning stove in between. Upstairs, two bedrooms and one full bath. Full unfinished basement. Full attic too, for that matter.
Standing at the closest creek, that’s the back of the house
back corner
the front of the house (on a very overcast day!) — I want to plant flowers around the house, and maybe forsythia
Marc, standing on ground between the two creeks out back

Though I will be 100% thrilled to leave the most hateful state of Texas, I’ll be sorry to leave my friends in Austin, and hope to see people when I come back to visit Katie and family. I’ll be sorry to leave a great many aspects of Austin, and I’m so glad I moved here in 2012. In addition to all the reasons I’ve loved being here that relate to Katie, I learned so much here. I really learned how to make a life for myself, just for me. I learned that I love living alone. I learned how to do that, even. You have a standing invitation to come visit. There are three ski mountains VERY nearby (Hunter, Belleayre, and Windham), it’s gorgeous in the fall, and I have a spare bedroom.

Move #82. It’s gonna be OK.

Our home is in Big Indian, at the margin between Big Indian Wilderness and Catskills State Park (Big Indian is part of the park, just a distinct spot of its own….and how thrilling, “wilderness”!).
There it is in relation to the city — Catskills State Park is the large green area at the top of the picture, a 2.5-hour drive to NYC.

And very nearby our house is the trailhead for one of the best hikes in the Catskills, to Giant Ledge — five ledges, actually:

the view from Giant Ledge Trail

Wow. Bring it on, black bears and all.

(*This got real long, but I append a funny story about black bears, in case you’ve stuck it out to the bitter end. So there are a LOT of black bears in the Catskills. A lot. They’re not really a threat except during baby season, and then only if you get to close to babies and a mama gets scared. I was told I’d need to bring my bird feeders in every night, because the bears love them. [really???] And the realtor said that they’ll come right up on the deck; her husband opened the door one night and came face-to-face with a big black bear, and they both freaked out and ran. He said he’ll always remember two things: 1) how AWFUL it smelled, and 2) that its breathing was so loud and sounded like Darth Vader. He could still hear it breathing from a long way away. One woman frequently finds streaks of bear snot on her kitchen window, since she hangs a bird feeder there during the day. (?) So I guess if I’m ever sitting in my living room and see a pair of eyes on the deck and hear Darth Vader, I don’t need to be [too] afraid. 🙂 )

15 thoughts on “always hoping it’s the last one”

  1. Lori, Lori, congratulations, I’m so happy for you! What a lovely, bright, cheery place to live. Just think of the peace and beauty you’ll have out there, and yet you’ll still be so nice and close to New York City–which you love so very much–as well as several other nice towns. Out of the Reddest of Red States. You won’t have to do the commuting-by-plane thing every few weeks, which has to be exhausting. AND just think how much fun it will be to have Oliver and Lucy and Ilan come to visit and discover everything with their Pete!

    I look forward to many Tales of the Big Indian Cabin and photos. I know you’ll bring it to vivid life, just as you do with everything. Again, I’m so, so happy for you!

    1. Oh, what a beautiful comment Linda, thank you. <3 I so look forward to the whole thing, and to living in my very own writer's retreat. I just feel like I'm going to get a LOT of good writing done there. Thank you for your kindness, your generosity, and your understanding of every last bit (OY the Reddest of Red States I spit on you as I leave) (and my grandkids will definitely have to come to Camp Pete!). xoxoxo

    2. Linda, you captured my attention and made me think that when I move, I’m changing the name of my blog to “In the Big Indian Cabin of the Queen of the Pillbugs.” On top of the delight the name will give me every time I see it, I’ll also think of you, with a smile and a hat tip.

      And there was, apparently, a real-life Big Indian: “Once a Munsee named Winneesook (the name means “snowfall”) lived near Marbletown, New York; because of his height of about seven feet, he was also called Big Indian. He was in love with a local woman, Gertrude Molyneux, who eventually loved him as well; because her parents opposed the match, they arranged a marriage with one Joseph Bundy. Disliking Bundy, Gertrude eloped with Winneesook into the wilderness. Some years later, a party of people searching for a missing cow was led by Bundy; still seeking revenge, he accused “that big Indian” of stealing the cow. When they finally found Winneesook, Bundy shot him with his rifle and injured him severely; after being left alone, Winneesook crawled to a pine tree where Gertrude found him later dying. After Winneesook’s death and burial, Gertrude and her children moved to the site; the hamlet of Big Indian later developed at that location. Local lore holds that the pine tree stood until the railroad through Big Indian was built in the 1880s.”

      Another account says that he crawled to a large hollow tree and died, standing up, inside it.

      In the Big Indian Cabin of the Queen of the Pillbugs. I just love that so much.

  2. I will definitely miss my Lori being so close (in this god-awful state of Texas), but am so happy that you have found a blissful place to rest your remarkable and beautiful “tired of moving” self. I love you more than the big wide world and miss you already. xoxoxo

    1. I am so grateful that I will spend my last night as a Texas resident with YOU. I guess whether I like it or not I’ll always be a Texan, but I won’t be a resident….though I’ve learned never to say ‘never.’ You and Karl will have to come visit, there will be a room just waiting for you. And a deck to sit on and drink wine, and peace and solitude to soak up, and Democrats all around. xoxoxoxoxox

  3. I am SO HAPPY FOR YOU!! May the hiking trails be peaceful, the sunsets /sunrises be perfect, and the skiing smooth! And … don’t have bird feeders! 😘😘

    1. That’s a perfectly gorgeous set of wishes, thank you darling Alethea! I hope for all the same things. (I’ll probably start off with bird feeders because I love them, but having to bring them indoors every damn night will probably then get old and irritating and that will be the end of that.) Luckily, the area is chock-full of every imaginable kind of bird. 🙂 xoxoxox

  4. How amazing to go and live in that legendary place, only found in books, The Catskills!! I think I may have a friend near there named Tom (a schoolteacher) who always needs to take in his bird feeders at night! Have a great time setting up your new home. xx

    1. You know, I feel exactly the same way — such a legendary place, such a place found in books. I love saying it, Catskills, I’m going to live in the Catskills. I so appreciate that you said that, you just filled me with delight. Thanks for your well-wishes, they mean a lot to me. xxx

  5. Wow. Beautifully written. Especially the line about nothing being permanent except the love for your kids. Brilliant!

    Cheers to a new adventure!

Comments are closed.