Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Delaware isn't New York

I think there's something about living in one place your whole life, where you start to feel a bit privileged; you start to think this is the way it should be. And then you go somewhere else, and you scoff. You think to yourself that it's not as warm, as rainy, as cold, as sunny, as it should be. Those aren't the right plants. It's not a beach without palms. Redwoods. Maples.

And what you do, see, is you miss things. If you drive through Colorado wishing it was greener, you miss the inherent beauty of such a stark landscape; you miss how vivid all the reds and golds and rich browns are.

I have always sort of felt this was the case with me personally, but I still can't seem to help it. My family went to Florida once for vacation. It was during the shift between spring and summer, and I was happy to get away from the muddy transition stages of New York. But to my surprise, I found Florida a little sad. There were so many empty stucco buildings painted in whites and pinks and tans. So much sand and scrabbly weeds. So many palm trees with yellow, peeling leaves. I got a little grumpy. I felt like something was missing, but I wasn't quite sure what, until we got back to New York.

I remember bolting out of the car and stumbling into our back lawn, our gorgeously emerald green lawn. All the maple trees had spread their leaves and the boughs swayed, heavy with the abundance of it. It was gorgeous. It was so green. It was lush.

I remember running down to bask in that lushness, sunlight turning the greens transparent or thick with shadow, everything rich and damp and spongy soft, and thinking to myself, I will always love New York. I could never live somewhere where it isn't green. Later vacations to California, the Carolinas, and even Virginia only strengthened my feelings.

Then last August I got accepted to a college in Delaware.

I thought to myself, It can't be too bad. It's not that far away. It will still be green. Right?

Turns out Delaware is green enough, just not snowy enough. Snow is also very important to me. But in Delaware, nobody gets snow until February. I was a bit shell-shocked. No snow meant no white Christmases. No fluffy hummocks of white. No crisp, painfully clear night skies to stand beneath with my chin tipped up, breath crystallizing into clouds.

None of that until February.

The other thing I learned about Delaware -- or at least the upper end of the state -- is that it's not terribly sunny. Even on bright days, there's still this smoky layer across the sky that makes it feel like the sun never actually comes out. I spoke to some residents about this, and they explained it has something to do with New Jersey, how the wind tends to channel down through the cities, spreading all that nasty smog across Delaware. Sigh. Thanks for that, Jersey.

So I basically spent the first few months here pretending I was being optimistic and silently judging how pathetic Delaware could be. It wasn't cold when it was supposed to be cold. And even when it was cold, it refused to snow. (What's the point of cold without snow?) It rained a lot, which was okay, but when it wasn't raining, it was still cloudy. Half the time those clouds turned into fog.

My discomfort went on for some time, until, I don't know when, it kind of stopped. I just got used to living here. And that's when I started noticing the lovely things about Delaware that I hadn't the eyes to see before. For example, that misty layer over the sky? Makes for beautiful sunsets. The fog or whatever disperses the light, both softening and enriching. So the sunsets are these huge, raw, throbbing things that make you want to get out of your car and just…stand there in awe.

And at night, the fog is insane. It's thick and huge and it doesn't rise up from the ground--it hangs overhead like this thick, bruise-colored blanket. There's so many cars and stores that everything lights up with this freakish pink and gold glow. And the roads go rising and falling, so that you feel like you're on this roller coaster, this dark serpent, and it's pressing you up against this terrible black cloud above you, like you might get crushed beneath it.

If that sounds terrifying, it is terrifying--but in a totally awesome, power of nature kind of way.

And there's more, little things: everyone grows the same kind of gorgeous pink roses that smell just delicious. There's a tree that drops these huge, neon-green, soft-ball sized nut things that look a bit like a brain. There's the quick and easy access to so many fascinating places like DC, Philadelphia, and NYC.

I'm sure as time continues, I'll discover more things--oddities about late Winter, and Spring, and early Summer, and so on, and so forth--that will be amazing and special. I'm sure no matter what state or country or country I go to, I will find this to always be true. While I can't help identifying deeply with New York, I really am trying to appreciate other areas for what makes them unique. I don't just want to see how they look on the surface. I don't want to limit my knowledge to a place's tourist facade. I want to know it as it really is, as it's meant to be known.

I'm certain this is a writer thing. What I'm realizing is, there's a story in every place I live--maybe this story has more green, or this one has more sun, but it's still there, if I look close enough. And the writer in me refuses to be satisfied with anything less than the whole story.

I know this is a silly question, but I'm honestly curious to know--is there somewhere special, perhaps where you grew up, that you judge all other places against? What do you think about snow/no snow/learning to appreciate a place for what makes it unique? Share. I love it when people share.

Truly and always,
-Creative A


Middle-Schooler said...

OMG...I live in New York too. :O
But I actually have opposite feelings. I live in the city, and while I used to love it, I've realized that it IS actually VERY dirty. And polluted. And loud. And crowded.
I mean, I still love living here because it's "the city that never sleeps" and I can't imagine living anywhere else, but I kinda want to go to college in California. :|
Oh, and do you know that New York City was #1 on the rudest cities list on Yahoo?

Dork Vader said...

This why I want to travel so much. Not because of the usual tourist attractions, but because I love finding the subtle beauties of different places.

Well, and the attractions. Not going to say no to the Eiffel tower.

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