Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vistas

Scope and scale mean different things in different parts of the country.  Growing up on Long Island, the ocean was grand and went on forever, flat for as far as I could see.  Yet it was curiously intimate as well, with gentle sloshing waves covering my toes at sunset or giant breakers pushing me ahead of themselves rushing headlong toward shore.  (In yet another Who Knew? moment, it wasn't until I moved to California that I discovered that my childhood pastime had a name and a culture all its own..... bodysurfing). 

The skyscrapers  in Manhattan did touch the sky, and Daddooooo made sure I knew the history (real or imagined; he talked and I believed) and the height and the controversy behind each one.  A New Yorker's New Yorker, he never tired of standing at a street corner, head flung back, hat held on with one hand while the other gesticulated, directing my embarrassed but willing eye toward an outcropping or an antenna or a tree-lined balcony miles and miles above our heads.  Yes, people stopped and stared with us.  It was special.

Going to Cornell meant that everything was uphill, no matter your starting point.  It may sound impossible, but ask anyone who's ever spent any time there at all and then come back and argue with me.  But it wasn't the climbing that impressed me as much as it was the view.

McGraw Tower, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

From anywhere on campus, over the tops of the buildings, there were mountains.  At least to my eye they were mountains.  Returning to Long Island, a place where the hills on the Black Course at Bethpage Golf Club were the highest places down which to sled, I was struck by the flatness of it all.  Right then,  in July of 1970, I decided that never again would I live in a place without a vista.

TBG and I spent 10 months living on Staten Island. Beyond the obvious advantages of lower rent, free parking, a pool and a very cool commute on the Ferry, we saw the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge and the Statue of Liberty from our living room and bedroom windows.  Back in Chicago, we were on the 11th floor overlooking Lincoln Park and the western suburbs. Fireworks on the 4th of July were spectacular, and we didn't have to leave home to enjoy them.

We spent a few years in closed-in urban living and it was wonderful but then we moved to Marin and began to live on the edge of open space.  I am a big fan of The Nature Conservancy - their efforts preserved acres and miles and forevernesses of land which would otherwise have been covered with houses.  Of course, there's a certain irony to this since our homes were not in-fill projects but rather the raison d'etre of the coming together of the developer and The Conservancy to preserve the land in perpetuity; monetary contributions and lobbying assistance with the local entities in exchange for some land at the fringes of the property gave us a beautiful place to call home.  We could see to Vallejo and Berkeley and the Golden Gate Bridge was right there when we opened the front door.  It was pretty spectacular.

Then we moved to Tucson.  Suddenly, Ithaca's rolling pastoral landscape was little more than a speed bump.  Mt. Tam, which lived out all our windows in all our homes in Marin, was beautiful and green but not all that huge any more.  Here,  I have the Pusch Ridge from my desk



and Safford Peak from my kitchen



and I'm living on the volcanic detritus piled up between what used to be one mountain which erupted, imploded and then gradually stretched apart, as tectonic plates are wont to do, creating a variety of basins and ranges.

I was reminded of the vastness of my vista this week as I watched a storm front move through.  I've never seen the edge of a weather system as clearly as this:


To the left of this cloud there is blue sky as far as you can see.  Coming along with this edge is  the rest of the storm system:


  Below it is blue sky, above and behind it is the rest of the storm.


I was marveling at the clouds and the majesty of the heavens moving when the clouds cleared and the skies were blue once again


It was the eye of the storm.  You can see the white tufted grey clouds coming back with the rest of the rain.  I tried to take a picture for you, but it was really really wet.


Seeing to the next county is very cool.  Watching a weather system pass over your house is awesome.  I love Tucson....even when it's 48degrees of inclement drear.

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