Do we never grow tired of imagining ourselves living other lives on distant ground?
Driving north, off the Thruway, we chatted back and forth about this vista, that house, the sweep of a meadow, the comfort of a stream near a home; the subtext to all this being what would a day feel like in this or that new space, one bounded by rows of mountains and long fields of yellow mustard packed with sunlight. Who would we befriend, who would visit, what would happen inside us when every day we awoke to such a natural opulence of light and openness? Who might we become, untethered from our old territories?
Patti and I have done this in Paris, along the narrow roads of Normandy, in Maine and Wyoming and again, now and here, in Orange County in New York. In these conversations there’s always an attraction to spaciousness, and an oracular image of a light on in a front window, and a come-in hovering just out of hearing.
This has been a pattern in our reveries, and then 1300 foot Storm King Mountain summoned another kind of sensation, that of the body. Do we ever lose all our muscle memory? We think we have forgotten how to do something until it is again needed, and then it appears, as if it has silently risen through the sediment of years and years. Some skills leave forever, but this kind of memory seems to abide.
It appeared while ascending a narrow, wet, rocky trail barely attached to the steep western side of the mountain – that slow, deliberate pace, that never hurrying, rarely stopping, letting go of the desire to reach the summit, only moving-breath-steady pace. It has been years since I last used it for this kind of climb, but it was ready. I did not have to think or consciously remember. I did not have to practice. The rhythm simply established itself. I could detach my mind and look out through the trees at the Hudson spreading itself out, at turkey vultures skimming the thermals below us, at commuter trains silvering-fast on the far shore.
On the bare rock up top we met 5 college boys, tatted and smoking, skylarking close to the edge. The wind blew heavily against us. Through the binoculars the ruins of Bannerman Castle came close, the wealth of a century ago gone and trees taking over.
Coming down required slow, almost balletic footwork, but I also remembered Brando doing Stanley Kowalski and of his complaint that Blanche was “describin’ [him] like a ape,”, and I did the old ape moves down the trail, arms swinging for balance, the body compressed, its center of gravity much lower and thus creating a primate glide, a Brando goofing on the mountain. Do we never grow tired of play?