Many years ago, when I was barely out of my teens, and still resided in the Garden State, I started on a photo essay idea I’d had on the wide variations contained within New Jersey that I cleverly called “State of Change”. I lived, for a good portion of my life, in the northern New Jersey suburbs, and was working at the time in Newark, but I’d also lived in the Central Jersey shore area, surrounded by farms, and I’d always been intrigued how a relatively small state could have so much geographic, and demographic, diversity. Alas, that project was abandoned, and due to the passage of time, most of those pictures are now gone.
And I have long been living in an quasi-rural/exurban area of New York state (and commuting back into New Jersey). If I were to have the time, or energy, for such a grand undertaking, the Empire State would certainly be deserving of a photo essay documenting an astounding array of differences. From New York City north to the Canadian border – from the Atlantic Ocean west to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, it has wide variations in population density, terrain, arability. I found myself reflecting on all of this last weekend, as we made a (long) day trip to visit a college campus located in Oswego, quite literally on the shores on Lake Ontario (I think they said that have a mile and a half of shoreline). I took the nearly 4 hour stint to the campus, my husband took the return trip – seven and half hours in a car leaves a lot of time for reflecting. And I found myself reflecting on how much of this state, indeed this part of the US, I really do love and enjoy. Few things are more stunning in the fall than New York state. I always enjoyed showing my foreign exchange students how much of New York was nothing like ‘the city’ – or, in fact, how little of the city makes up what they envision New York City to be.
Yet, when I imagine my retirement, although that imagining has altered significantly over the years, it has never included the possibility of staying permanently in New York, New Jersey, or anywhere else in the Northeastern US. Certainly whether I retire, change careers, or stay where I am, New York is almost certainly where I’ll be for the next few years unless my daughter chooses a school outside of the State University system – the tuition savings by staying in state would be too great to ignore. And if I stay here, continuing to work is also a near certainty. But longer term? No, tempted though I often am by the sheer beauty of rural New York, I’m equally put off by the cold. And with each passing winter, it becomes clearer to me that I am not at all in love with the cold, damp weather that comes as a part of winter here in the Northeast. New York is also not an inexpensive area, but some things in the places I’d like to move to are also quite expensive. Particularly if we move first to Arizona. As we likely will if I need to keep working. Life is full of trade-offs. And, obviously, the mountains of New Mexico are not without cold or snow, but the season is shorter than it is here. And the summers are much less hot and very much less humid. But then, again, I looked out on that ocean of a lake from the campus (in the cold, damp, wind), and had the fleeting “I could live here” thought, and thought the same thought a few times looking out on the farms and small towns that we drove past. Realistically, though, I probably couldn’t, and in the end, really don’t want to.
As my younger daughter edges closer to her college years, and my older one becomes more entrenched in her life in Japan, it becomes clear how close my husband and I are to becoming empty-nesters. Soon, we will begin the process, in earnest, of getting the house ready to sell (something we will do regardless of college choice – it’s just too big for 3 people and an aging dog). It’s both sobering and exciting.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” — Lao Tzu
Photo of Lake Ontario taken from the rooftop of the science center at SUNY Oswego, April 29, 2017.