Friday, August 5, 2011

Back in New York State

I’m in my home state of New York this week, on vacation visiting family and friends. It’s been a wonderfully relaxing visit so far, even though I’ve traveled here and there on planes, trains, in cabs and in a rental car. Some of my friends wonder how I deal with the stress of traveling. I deal with it, probably because I am not working and living in the New York City area anymore and don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis. I was in New York City yesterday and met a good friend for lunch. When I left her apartment at around 3:30 pm, it took me almost 45 minutes to get from the upper west side (88th street) to Grand Central train station on 42nd street because the streets were so congested with traffic. I had forgotten that it could take that long. Could I do that now each day—deal with this kind of traffic? No, not anymore. But I did at one point in my life—commuted into and out of Manhattan from my home in Somerset New Jersey. Two-hour commutes each way. I got a lot of reading done on the commuter buses; in fact, I don’t think I ever got so much reading done as in the space of the four years I commuted into and out of the city. But I had no social life to speak of in New Jersey—I got home too late each night, and on weekends, I was often back in Manhattan again with friends, going to discos, to the theater, or out to eat.

One of the reasons I love coming back to New York in the summertime is because of the heat. It’s hot here! The week before I landed at Newark, the temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My brother told me that it was so hot last week that many cars just couldn’t tackle the heat. In fact, his car’s air conditioning system collapsed. It’s not that hot this week (temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s), but it’s warm enough so that you don’t need a jacket when you go outside. That’s summer to me. Or sitting for a few hours on a white sandy beach like I did with another good friend out in Long Beach, Long Island, digging my toes into the warm sand and watching the waves roll in and crash onto the shore.  I’m sunburned and I don’t care; I so rarely lie in the sun that it can’t matter too much one way or the other in terms of all of the potential health risks. We ate paninis on the beach and fed some of the sandwich bread to the many seagulls that stalk the beachgoers. Sly little birds, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on a piece of bread. I love them too. I love them in Oslo as well when we’re out on the boat, even though they poop on the boat to the great irritation of my husband. My friend reminded me that they poop on people too; this I know. It’s happened to me twice in my life; you wash it off and go on. I cannot imagine a world without them, or any bird for that matter. Incredible little creatures.

I was in upstate New York again too, this time in Highland Falls visiting my sister and her husband. We ended up at West Point and took some gorgeous shots of the Hudson River at that vantage point. The day we were there was also a scorcher; there were a lot of boats out on the river, and it was just a lovely sight. Such a beautiful river, the Hudson River. I know that I could photograph it at all angles and from all vantage points and it still wouldn’t do it justice. Its essence cannot be captured; you just have to ‘feel’ how beautiful it is. I will be posting some shots from my New York trip shortly; as always, I am taking many photos and enjoying snapping away.

It doesn’t take much to be happy in this life. A long vacation away from work stresses will do wonders. But it’s more than that too. You can start vacation feeling overloaded from work, and that feeling can just pervade and ruin an entire vacation. I feel free this year, entirely free, from all the negativity and confusion that has defined my work life and environment for the past two years. I don’t miss work. I know it’s there when I get home, but there’s no rush to get back to work. How I have changed. And I wonder how that was possible—me, the career woman for many years. But no longer. I still love science, the wonder of learning, I am still curious about so much in nature, but I am no longer interested in an academic career. I’ll leave that to those who are. I’ll do my level best to do a good job now, but within the confines of a forty-hour work week, and no more. My free time is my own. That is what has given me this newfound freedom; the knowledge that I changed my way of working and living. I work to live now, not live to work. Again the word grateful springs to mind; I am grateful these days for the changes, for the work difficulties of the past two years, for the learning processes, for the ‘divine choreography’ that is ever present in our lives as my friend Bernadette puts it. God is ever present and working in our lives, and sometimes we are granted an open window into ourselves or out into the world. We can look in or look out, or maybe even both. The window is our connection with the divine and when it is there, true happiness is there too.

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