I had breakfast at my kitchen table this morning. For a woman who's been couch-bound for 6 weeks that was a real accomplishment. My L.A. SuziSitter made us oatmeal and set the table with placemats and I read the comics and Ann Landers and listened to her tell me about her new car. There was a pause in the conversation which she punctuated by commenting on the serenity of the view from our windows.
It was just that view which sealed the deal for us in buying this house. We searched for two years, all over America, looking for the perfect place to live. We needed a university town with good local sports, an airport which had direct flights to our kids (TUS used to fill that bill nicely, but that's another post), a community with spirit and a real sense of place, and the house needed a vista. Not a view, necessarily, but a vista. I needed space.
Returning to Long Island after my freshman year in Ithaca, I remember being struck by how flat everything was. Turning a corner was turning a corner; there was no hillside in the distance to take your breath away. I had grown accustomed to looking up and around and being delighted with what I saw. My hometown had become a geographic snooze-fest. I took myself to the beach nearly every afternoon that summer, sometimes just sitting in a parking lot overlooking the ocean, sometimes walking the boardwalk, but always looking out toward the horizon. It soothed my soul.
When TBG's work took us to NYC for a year, I had visions of finally becoming an East Side Chick. I was going to live with the trendsetters, shop with the fashionistas, and feel like a real New Yorker. Unfortunately, budgetary considerations dictated otherwise. Daddooooo took TBG on the Staten Island Ferry to cool his fevered, frustrated brow and from the front deck they saw a sign advertising 2 bedrooom apartments, with parking and a pool. A quick trip up the hill brought them to a clean, convenient to the ferry building with rents that were one-third of those in my most desired location.
"Can you live in Staten Island?" he asked me over the phone. "Staten Island??????" I shrieked. I'd never been to Staten Island except when crossing the Goethals Bridge on my way to points south. I knew no one who had ever been to Staten Island. I wanted to live on the Upper East Side, not in faux-suburbia.
My screeching was ignored and wiser minds prevailed and our possessions were moved into a lovely apartment with two bathrooms and bedrooms and a real kitchen and dining room and not that many roaches (it was New York City after all). I was depressed, embarrassed, sad beyond reasonableness.... until TBG took me by the shoulders and turned me toward the window.
There was the Statute of Liberty.... the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.... lower Manhattan .... right outside my new home. I could sit at my kitchen table and watch the marine traffic and the clouds catch on Lady Liberty's torch and my eyes could wander for miles. It was a great view, but it was an even greater vista. It drew me out of myself and my disappointment and sent me soaring into the world.
Upon our return to Chicago, I searched for a similar sense of visual space. The high rise I chose had bright green shag carpet and a galley kitchen which barely allowed for the refrigerator door to open but it had floor to ceiling windows looking south and west and vistas stretching to the farthest suburbs. True, Lake Michigan was to the east, but I wasn't interested in a view. I just cared about the expanse of space available to my eyes. Sunsets and fireworks and miles of unbroken sky made coming home from work an adventure that never grew old. We put Nannie's oriental carpets over the neon floor coverings, heeding her advice that "Oriental rugs go with everything" and watched as our friends wore their sunglasses to sit on the couch in the late afternoon. It was a noisy but wonderful place to call home.
When we could afford to purchase our own living space, we ended up living cheek-by-jowl in the concrete jungle. There was 18" of air between our first condo and the parking garage on the north. The original owners of the greystone had sold the front yard for commercial use decades before moving out and turning the building into condos. We lived behind Blockbuster; our gate was between the garage and the video store and led to a narrow walkway and a pretty porch which afforded a view of the back of the store. The porch in the rear looked down the alley. Vistas? Hardly. Our house in the city was larger and had a yard and a real front garden, but it was 2 stories surrounded by 3 and 4 and 18 stories and vistas weren't in the picture then, either.
Marin County is nothing but great views, anywhere and everywhere you look. We didn't see the city or the Golden Gate Bridge, but Richardson Bay was out my kitchen window and my next door neighbor and I would call one another two or three times a week saying "Quick, go look at the light on the mountains!" After 10 years of urban dwelling, the vistas eased the transition to suburbia. I might not be able to walk to all my errands, but my home was surrounded by far off spaces ... and that was a good thing. We lived in 4 homes in California and each one afforded me the opportunity to sit at my kitchen table and dream.
I watched the sun change the colors of the Headlands from green to grey to deep turquoise. I looked at Mt. Tam and picked out the trails I knew and loved. I kept track of the dog walkers in the open space and the cars speeding across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. On a clear day, Vallejo was visible in the distance, and I could let myself float on the breeze as I took a brain-trip north toward Napa.
But nothing beats what I see from my kitchen table here in Tucson. Safford Peak and the Avra Valley beyond it.... hot air balloons in the early morning hours.... the pink and purple hues on Pusch Ridge as the sun colors the rocks... and the sunsets. Oh, my, the sunsets. I have bobcats and mourning doves and bats and finches and coyotes but most of all I have space. Endless miles of unbroken skies and mountain ranges that appear as the light allows and they all make my heart sing.
Being housebound is tough for an active girl .... the vistas from my big windows keep me sane.
(If I weren't so comfortable here on the couch I'd include photos to illustrate my point. Unfortunately, the pictures live on the desktop's hard drive and I am typing to you on Nellie-the-Notebook. Alas, just another little inconvenience arising from the fact that I got shot. Sigh......)