Living In Nature
New York City is like a mega-vitamin for me, when I need nourishment, stimulation or replenishment, that is where I go. Then I come home. I've lived in New York several different times in my life, it is an astonishing and remarkable place. My New York – place where kids could go and make their way in the world, has largely vanished, been replaced by condos and luxury apartments and chain stores, or migrated to Brooklyn, which is exciting and achingly hip, expensive, politically-correct, and self-referential.
New York is a rich mix, but increasingly the dominant part of the mix is money. The city remains a place of controlled chaos, something I have always loved about it.
Saturday night Maria and I went to the Lower East Side to have dinner with my daughter Emma and her fiance, Jay Jaffe, who also writes about sports. Emma and Jay are very happy together, and I am excited about their wedding. I haven't seen him much. Jay and I live in very different words, I suspect he finds me a bit strange, even unfathomable. I am happy for them both. At dinner we talked a bit about why I was so drawn to moving upstate to the country, and why I feel so at home in rural life.
Jay asked if this winter had persuaded me to think about living elsewhere, I said no, I have no wish to live elsewhere, not even in the winter, which I love, for all of it's headaches. Winter here reminds me of what it means to be alive, it demands that I be attentive, resourceful and grateful for Spring. Jay suggested that perhaps I lived upstate because I could have animals here, and could not elsewhere – like New York.
I told him I didn't think that was it, I love my work with animals but I came upstate well before I had many. It was as if a spell had been cast upon me, I just felt I belonged here. I realized this weekend, being in New York, that I have never quite acknowledged the degree to which I am drawn to be in nature, to live in the natural world and yes, also the world of animals. Maria knows this about herself and has acknowledged it, she would live outside in a tent if it were feasible and could drag me into it. I am less in touch with this understanding of myself. Yet here I am, up early to see the mist over the hills.
A half-century ago, a psychologist named Boris Levinson wrote a landmark book called "People And Pets" in which he predicted that many Americans – living in cities and disconnected from the natural world and the world of animals and made anxious by changes in work, economics, the family, politics, religion and technology – would become broken from an essential part of humanity.
He said after the turn of the century, many Americans would turn to the natural world and to animals for healing. I am one of those people. He is gone, but he imagined me. Levinson did not foresee that Mother Earth would become broken as well, perhaps because of her growing disconnection from human beings.
I need to be in nature. I need to smell the smells of nature, see the tracks of animals, look at the mist on the hills, walk in the forests, learn what it means to garden, feel the bitter cold and stand in awe of the furious storms – they really matter up here. And yes, live with animals as well, they are such an elemental part of nature.
While the horses in New York fight to stay in their park, in my county we are free to live with them, work with them, learn about them. I am figuring out who I am, learning to acknowledge my love of nature and my need of the natural world. This is one of the many things Maria and I share. I am committed to reconnecting to Mother Earth, and, insofar as is possible, to joining the struggle to help her heal as well as me. This is what I learn when I go to New York City.
The two different worlds of me, I think – New York City and Bedlam Farm, the two halves of the whole. I meet my editors there, edited a magazine there, produced a TV news show there, met my agents there, put on a play there, brought my first manuscript into my editor there, wandered Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side there, covered riots and demonstrations there, made love there in many places.
I hope I am never disconnected from New York, it is a part of me and my consciousness.
My life is here now, and this is my home. I no longer yearn for any other place, I am where I belong, where I need to be.