Wednesday, February 23, 2011


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......)


  1. I'm glad a blogger I follow for work turned me on to your blog. I've just been reading for now, but I have a suggestion for your desktop/notebook situation: Dropbox! It's a way to synchronize files between two computers, and 2gigs of storage comes with the free version. I use it to have files available on both my work and home computers. Of course, you do need to know ahead of time that you want the files :-)

  2. Love how you have taken advantage of great vistas wherever you have lived. Think it's important to surround yourself with beauty. Glad your current view is giving you comfort.

  3. AB~
    The Good Husband and I have discussed many cities as options for retirement.I always thought the uber-urban life would suit me. But, alas (or a-wonder) I think we may be already living in our retirement home. We've been in Tucson for 18 years now, 8 of those in this wonderful home my TGH designed. Our 3.6 acres abuts the U of Preserve for the study of flora and fauna. It feels like we live on over a hundred acres. I have the most beautiful views from every window, but the best are directly in front of me as I write and work all day. I'd be crazy to give up this paradise! I'll be satisfied with frequent big city travel.

  4. I miss the vistas up here that I have in Tucson. The neat thing about Tucson is how many mountains there are to admire. I also like the view toward Pusch Ridge and then across the valley to Sombrero Peak from my Tucson house. And the beauty is it's not an expensive or big house but the views are just a result of the ridge it sits on. Up here I see pastures which is okay, especially for keeping an eye on the sheep and cattle; but it's not a vista.

  5. Dropbox sounds like an excellent suggestion, Kenneth. Welcome to the comments!

    The blue blue sky here in Tucson does make me happy. Big city living is good in terms of culture and walking to whatever you need (obviating the need to wonder when to give up the car)for retirement, Kim, but it's expensive and stressful and then you'd miss the views... and as Megan says, they give comfort. Watching the sheep and cattle would keep me amused for hours, Rain, but you are right, there's nothing like Pusch Ridge and Sombrero Peak to put a smile on my face.

  6. This was a lovely post, the more so because my mind's-eye-view followed you easily from vista to vista.

    As a military family, we've lived everywhere from Songtan, S. Korea (translation: Muddy Village) to the Superstition Mtn. views of Mesa, AZ, from the salt ponds of Hampton Roads, VA, to the tea-colored creeks of Alabama. None of them matched the vistas--the picture post card, eagle flying toward me, yellow aspen, blue sky, snow-covered Chugach Range, Dall sheep-scattered hillsides--that we saw from every window in Eagle River, AK. The River bubbled up to sing to us on the deck and moose hung their heads over the railing. I could see heaven from the windows of that house.

    Today, we looked at a perfect gem of a condo on Banker's Hill in San Diego...tiny, quiet, exquisite, safe, and functional for disabilities (gotta think about that when you're 63 and 66...and when you no longer believe that you could never get shot as long as you steer clear of the drug neighborhoods). No vista, but I felt right at home. I've never had the urban experience as primary residence. I wonder if it's time.

  7. Fabulous post. I remember clearly the first time I came to Tucson. I was 17. That time was just to visit my dad who'd come here to work at the U. I was petrified. I'd never been so far from the ocean. My brother and I looked out through the airplane window ad saw the mountains, then on the ground saw the vistas and it was all alright. I still miss salt air. If anything could call me away from Tucson it would be to water, but that first visit was 24 years ago.

  8. Oh boy, do I know what you're talking about. Maybe it's because I am a writer, but I must be able to look out the window, to have my eyes rest in middle distance. I once tried working in a converted attic with skylights but no windows and I couldn't do it.

    RIght now I have the best view of perhaps ever—the Olympic Mountains west of Seattle. And huge windows to gaze out all day long. I am putting up with a tiny home and no counter space in my kitchen in order to have this view, but when I look out the window it's worth it.

    Thank you so much for your comment on Tea & Cookies the other day. So nice of you to hop over and say hi.

    And you lived in Marin? How funny, I grew up there (in W. Marin as a kid, then in Mill Valley). I'm trying to figure out exactly where you lived from your description. Regardless, Marin is gorgeous. That light just kills me when I go back. Like liquid gold. And the fog pouring over the mountain in the late afternoon?

    Okay, I'll stop now. I've made myself homesick :-)

    Hang in there, enjoy the vistas. This odd time of healing and frustration will actually be a fading memory one day, as hard as that is to imagine now.

  9. I can't live without views from my windows (I once lived next to a multi-level parking garage too!) I'm glad you have beauty to gaze at through your windows as you heal. My hubby and I are taking a vacation in AZ this spring and I am really looking forward to seeing a landscape so different from where I live.

    Hang in there...

  10. Hi there! Just wanted to drop by and say hello. Thank you so much for the lovely letter you wrote about me. It was incredibly sweet and I can't tell you how much I appreciate a patient appreciating my care the way you did. I hope you are well, resting and healing! Know you are in my thoughts ofent.

  11. One of the things I've always loved about Tucson is how it's nestled between so many different mountain feels so cozy to me. There is nothing more beautiful than a Tucson sunset...I just love watching the light change throughout the afternoon and into the evenings.

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