I love Pittsburgh…I moved here in early August. Wondrous, fun, occasionally challenging. Thanksgiving was for some reason, although I had a lovely, kind invitation and dinner. I didn’t want to fly back to New England; I had invitations there too. I think it was not the holiday, but the realization that everything is a door into how I want to live for the next twenty years or so. I do not want to live in an over 55 community, I do not want to run triathlons, I do not want to go on canned vacations with comfortable people, I do not want to live and die in a New England town of very limited horizons.
On holidays, however, it can be hard to be brave.
But that was just one day. One has to dive into fear, which I often do now, playing it out. I go out all the time and do new things, meet new people because I was static for so long in Maine. The last vestiges of holiday anxiety left at a concert I went to at the university the other night. It was just students, taking turns performing in a lovely old auditorium, playing Scarlatti, Barber.
How starved I was for the expansive life of the arts—the life of the city in general. I hadn’t realized. My decision to escape a crabbed northern New England town was the best decision I’ve made since I left Rhode Island at 18. That was one I had to make and it was tremendously frightening. My beloved aunt took me down on the train–I still shook and cried, though I knew I had to get out.
Courage changed my life course, as I had hoped. So will this move.
These days I walk and walk all over the place. It’s strange, people do not walk in the same way as Boston, where I once lived. In the mid-1990s, I walked miles every day, biked three miles each way to work in the insane traffic. Helmetless.
Walking culture seems different here. There is a wonderful neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, not far from where I live. It’s full of shops, ethnic restaurants, an incredible branch of the Carnegie library (although I most adore the Main branch in Oakland, whose stacks make me swoon), coffeehouses, tea shops, bookstores…it’s heaven.
It’s only a mile and a half to Squirrel Hill. Strangely, however, I encounter few people on my journey. One does see young adults, students probably, cycling in full armor. I pass through Frick Park on the walk and I look over at the bones of the land, evident now that the leaves have largely fallen. One sees brooks and paths, occasionally walkers, below.
In this area, one often looks down at landscapes, the tops of trees. I noticed this when I first came here. The landscape is both familiar and unfamiliar because of how one encounters the ravines, hills. These are features with which I have lived all my life in New England– Maine and Rhode Island. But for some reason one can see a lot more of what they look like here; why, I have not quite figured out. An absence of spruce and fir, the cast of ridges, glacial configurations?
It is also softer here. The air is softer, more like the Pacific Northwest. I walk every night before dark and I was struck tonight by the pinkish/golden glow of the sky, the ruined roses.
65 here yesterday, 34 in Maine, where I lived until mid-July. Yesterday there was freezing rain in Maine. I imagine it is much the same today.
Today I watched masses of crows fly overhead toward, I think, a rookery in Frick Park. I was there a couple of weeks ago, at the art museum. I walked around the grounds. Hundreds of crows were yakking it up in trees that surrounded the industrialist’s long- empty mansion.
So much for ostentation on this earth. After dealing with crows for 20 years around my little Maine home, I know that they— the “deep muscle of the earth”, poet Mary Oliver calls them— always win.