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  • Brian was the first person to pull up to our house when we moved in. He drove up in a big yellow logging rig and left the motor running, as is the habit of many people in these parts.

    He became, for me, the unofficial mayor of the town.

    He started asking questions right away.
    “Where are you from?”
    “New York,” I said.
    “City?” he asked.
    I was tense for a moment, not everyone appreciates the big city. It can be grounds for suspicion.
    “Yes,” I said.
    “I have a sister who lives there.” He answered. “My Dad is from Upstate. The kids used to tease us when we were little. We weren’t from here.”
    I nodded in sympathy.
    I told him my parents lived in the nearby town. They were summer people who had become residents. My younger brother was raised there and another brother had taught in the local school.
    “Your Ben’s sister? Wait till I tell my Mom, she taught there too.”

    “Why did you move?” he asked. “Were you there, that day? September 11th?”
    I was there.
    My husband had seen it from our roof. He went up after the noise of the first plane. He saw the second plane hit and then buildings collapse. He saw the long line of people filing up Center Street, evacuating the entire tip of Manhattan.

    I walked the 4 miles home that afternoon and, was stopped by guards at our abandoned neighborhood.
    “I live here, I live here,” I kept saying when they told me no one was allowed through their line.
    I had no ID and was almost hysterical.
    I finally found my City pool pass and they let me through the blockade.

    When I got into the loft, Jeff looked like hell.
    We sat on our roof and watched the column of smoke 10 blocks away, rising and billowing.
    We drank and cried.
    We never watch baseball but that night, on the only TV channel that still operated, we watched. The New York Yankees were behind, in the bottom half of the 9th inning when we tuned in. The bases were loaded, there were two outs and then batter hit a home run. They came from behind, they won.
    We cheered and cried.
    The next night the exact same thing happened again. Exact. We tuned in, Yankees behind, bases loaded, bottom of the 9th. Home run.
    We held each other and wept.
    On the third day the wind had shifted and the toxic smoke filled our air.

    I told Brian about it and he listened. He was moved.
    It turned out Brian was a volunteer fireman and felt a deep kinship to the firemen who worked and were killed that day. It could have been him. He would have served if he were there.

    The bias against New York City is pretty potent for some. After September 11th, an old friend from St. Louis called me to see how I was.
    “Did you know anyone…?” she asked.
    I had interned with one artist who had his studio in tower one. He had spent the night in his studio and died that morning. I worked with people who had family killed and friends in the area who were traumatized.
    I told her that.
    “I used to think that New York was just full of foreigners, “ she said, “But now I see they bleed red white and blue like the rest of us.”
    Ouch and thank you.

    Being from away is a big deal in small rural areas.
    The city has its own version of insider vs. outsider hazing but here they say it straight out.
    You are from “Away”.

    We went to one town meeting , it was several hours long, a line item review of the town budget.
    One neighbor, Charles, was speaking up about needing a comprehensive plan for the town.
    “I have seen things happen where I come from. If you pay a little money now, it will save you later.”
    “I have just one question for you,” said a fellow they called Lucky, “How long have you lived here?”

    Our country road is a mix of new and old and old new.
    A neighbor, who had moved here in the 70’s during the back to the land movement, complained about a new house being built up on top of the blueberry hill. The hill had stood open for decades.

    When my husband and I first moved in we took walks up to the hill and enjoyed the view. You can see down the coast from the hill and the sky feels immense.
    It is like being on an Island.
    One winter we stepped out of our woods, wearing snowshoes, we stepped into the field and a small crust of ice on the surface began to crack. The crack and the noise spread out and echoed back over acres of packed snow.
    It sounded like thunder.

    Walking on the hill was an experience. The road is not visible and so the modern world vanishes.
    You hear the wind, the birds and nothing more.
    We called it the high Veldt.
    A small cabin sagged at the top, no longer used, even by hunters, and birds nested there.
    Our woods abutted the field and so I could walk for miles uninterrupted.
    This is what I thought I had moved here for, to feel that space.

    I wondered sometimes about how long it would be before the land got developed, and then felt like cynical city folk.
    The answer was 3 years, much sooner than expected.

    I was sad at first thinking about the wild space being occupied and then I began to realize that there was plenty of wild space in my mind.
    I had my imagination and my art.
    The beauty of the hill was a wonderful abstraction; it was the idea of a perfect world. But it was wild out of neglect and now it was inhabited again.

    “Those people with their trophy house on the hill are driving up our tax base,” Our neighbor complained one evening when talking about the house getting built on the hill.
    He had moved here to get away from it all, perhaps to live like Thoreau. But in our age that is increasingly difficult.

    “They are schoolteachers,” I told him, “their grandparents left them the land. Their Fathers are contractors who came out of retirement to build them their home. They are nice people, they love their land.”
    I had met the family, while walking on top of their hill one day and later exchanged garden produce when they moved in.

    “I had not realized how judgmental I can be,” our neighbor said. “I’ll have to go meet them.”
    Sometimes the view you get from the top of the hill is not the one you expect.
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