A Colorado Girl in New York
I wasn’t born in Colorado but ever since moving here almost 10 years ago, I don’t seem to be able to leave for good. As I research some of the local history (more on that later) and learn about the frontiersmen, with their wanderlust spirits, that just kept being called back to the Colorado area, I can relate. This weekend though wasn’t about exploring new places or adventuring. This weekend brought me to New York to visit my sister. It was the first time I spent nights away without at least one of my children in almost 9 years; so it was a big deal. But the universe had aligned to make it happen, so I went with the flow. I had been feeling overwhelmed with life in general lately so a forced break, no matter how uncomfortable the idea was, was a good thing.
The Country Mouse Visits the City Mouse
Living in Northern Colorado, and being a mom with 3 kids, I had not yet joined the app-rides trend. But when my sister recommended I try Lyft rather than take the train during rush hour on a Friday because it would take a third of the time and “the train might break,” I gave it a try. I downloaded the app and got it set up. Arriving at the airport, I followed the signs for the ‘app-rides bus’ (or something like that). And looking confused I’m sure, I asked a tall security guard when I should ‘set up’ a ride (now or when I arrived wherever the bus was taking me) and how I would know when to get off and where to set as my pick up location. He assured me that the bus only had one destination and I could set up a ride on the way. So I followed the signs, got on one of the many buses lined up, and hoped I was doing it right. I felt a little better when half of the people on the bus seemed to be on the phone with friends trying to figure out where they were going. When the doors opened, we all looked around to see what everyone else was doing, and herded off the bus. We crossed the 3-lane road to find a long line of lettered signs, A-Z I assume. Cars would pull up, someone would jump in, and they would drive away. It reminded me of roads in India during my travels there (minus cows, elephants, and pretty colors) with cars crossing lanes haphazardly, stopping and going without notice, hundreds of people milling about, and somehow everyone managing to survive. I walked down a bit and checked my Lyft app. I thought it made sense to just choose the pick up spot as the location my phone automatically detected, and set up a ride. I watched the app as it tracked my driver’s car coming closer. And then, the driver called to find out exactly where I was. It turned out that I had set my pick up location to a highway just next to the road I was standing on. I tried to explain, “I’m at the J sign. I’m coming from the airport? There’s a long row of alphabet signs…” He told me he would come get me and 3 minutes later, I was in a car on my way. I had called for a ‘line’ ride, so I was sharing it with someone else. The app told me his name was Jeffrey but he didn’t even look up when I got in and apologized for the confusion. He played games on his phone and worked on what looked like a paper on his laptop as we headed towards Brooklyn. Then he was dropped off and I was dropped off. I could leave a rating and tip through the app and that was it (it amazed me – and I’m not sure if it was being in the big city or being without children – how much could be done with just a phone, no cash tip required!).
Finding Nature in the City
In my mind the stereotype for a New Yorker is someone sort of like the British Palace Guards – completely unflappable. Walking around Brooklyn and Manhattan, it wasn’t hard to realize why. People live and move and work practically on top of each other, all the time. So they put up a personal bubble and just do their own thing. We explored Brooklyn and I was surprised at all of the young families out and about. We walked through the downtown area, wandered through a busy farmers’ market and strolled through Prospect Park. It was a beautiful day and there were so many people out enjoying – picnicking on the grass, having parties, boating, biking, playing sports. I spotted a family playing in the place I think my kids would gravitate towards, a little opening to a wooded area with stumps to climb and branch forts to make. We saw a cardinal, a bright spot of red among the green, listened to a small waterfall, and enjoyed stepping away from the sounds of traffic.
I didn’t go to New York to do the ‘tourist thing’ (although we did go get photos of ourselves with The Girl at the Charging Bull statue); rather I was here to explore my sister’s stomping grounds. Even with technology and social media these days, it can be hard to really stay connected with friends and family long-distance. We walked around her neighborhood, met family for brunch, ate at a restaurant she enjoys. She brought me to ‘The Herborium,’ a little shop that makes her think of me. It was a sweet little place nestled in between apartment buildings. The women there prepare herbal skin care products in the back and also have some shelves of organic grocery staples and a fridge with local farm goods. It was fun to see a Brooklyn spin on an herbal shop.
That first day we walked 8 miles so we started off our exploring on day 2 with the subway (we still ended up walking 6 and a half miles that day). I think if I lived there, I would call this subway station ‘the Harry Potter station.’ Approaching it, all I could see was a small corner Deli. Walking around to the side/back, there were 2 nondescript doors that led down to the subway. I was almost disappointed that we didn’t have to push a combination of bricks to open up a secret passageway! But the station itself was odd enough to satisfy. It was sort of underground and sort of not. Leafy vines crawled won crumbling brick walls. And while we hadn’t felt rain walking there, it looked like it was raining just beyond where we were waiting.
We made our way – thanks to the phone again – to the Denver Botanic Gardens. There we meandered through the Shakespeare Garden, with quotes from his plays on the labels for so many familiar herbs. I loved it’s wild yet manicured appearance. We walked through the Rose Garden – one of the largest in the US – and breathed deep the gloriously uplifting scents. I had to make an extra visit to what became my favorite – Jude the Obscure – an orange-y peach colored full rose with such a beautiful scent! I also enjoyed the Rock Garden and the Herb Garden of course (they even had a label for the dandelions!). The weather was kind to us after the hot sun the day before, overcast with an occasional sprinkle of rain.Uncomplicated Eating
I have to admit that one of the awesome parts of my weekend away was not worrying about meals. One morning we had cookies and tea for breakfast, no guilt included!When we wanted to put together a meal for two, it was simple, and didn’t involved whining, fussing, or negotiating. I had forgotten what that felt like. One night my sister treated me to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant. We chatted, laughed, moaned appreciation for the yummy food, and chastised ourselves for not being able to finish our tiramisu (the waitress said she was quite impressed at how much we did manage to eat – which we weren’t sure was a complement). We decided to get a car home, and I enjoyed seeing the city lights reflected in the water – my favorite way to see the city.
Totally Worth It
It was a big deal for me to leave my kids for the weekend this first time. But it has meant a lot. No one demanded anything of me for two whole days. I didn’t have to plan, arrange, negotiate, or juggle an impossible number of tasks. I didn’t do my non-parent work at night before crawling into bed, beyond exhausted. And I had quiet moments where I could choose whether I wanted to read, knit, draw, or just sit curled up in a chair and breathe. As I sit on the plane now to return home, I feel ready to take on my world again. I am excited to see my husband and children again. A short break from my reality, and simply exploring someone else’s, was a wonderful way to re-connect with myself.