"what doesn't bend breaks"

We said goodbye this weekend to Long Island City, the neighborhood in New York where we've lived for 15 years.  We walked down to the piers (remember when they first started building this park?), and looked across at the city skyline (remember when we came down here and cried as the towers smoldered?), and looked back at the neighborhood (remember when there were no luxury condos down here?).  In the last few days we've been flooded with memories of friends who've long moved away, overwhelmed with gratitude for our wonderful neighbors, and delighted with the last of those little everyday interactions with the laundromat owner, Dulal, the young restauranteur, Elia, and all the folks on the street.

I remember now: New York City is a heartbreakingly beautiful place to live.

I am so grateful to remember this.  When I started going to the sisters' farm, back in the spring of 2009, I was so tired of the city--of the packaging, the garbage, the pollution, the noise, the incessant concrete.  I was tired, bone-tired, and feeling so unhealthy.  Getting my hands in the dirt, and breathing deep under an wide-open sky, I began to revive.  And now, three years later, I'm revived enough to appreciate the beauty of NYC again.  There is so much to love about NYC: the amazing density of so many life stories, the limitless ability of people to live alongside and to befriend those who are unfamiliar, the skillful street art of countless hands, the unfathomably deep human drive to build and build and create.  I love New York.

But it's no longer home.  Something shifted in me some years ago, when I felt called to get close to the land, to get close to food, to simplify.  And over the last few years, Anne and I have learned so much--about growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing food, about the Transition movement, about the New Cosmology, about permaculture, about natural building, about prayer and meditation and being deep-down quiet.  About being creatures of this world.  And as we learned, our center of gravity kept shifting, slowly, slowly, but inevitably away from the city.

Sometime during the last year, Anne began to feel called to work on environmental issues once more, as she had done many years ago, with me.  The Universe works in wonderful ways:  In April, Anne will begin as the national staff development director for the Public Interest Network (TPIN), and will be based here in Amherst, MA.  TPIN is the umbrella organization of all the state public interest research groups (PIRGs) and related organizations; Anne and I met each other nearly 20 years ago, working as campus organizers for the Massachusetts PIRG.  In the last 14 years, Anne has been blessed to have truly enjoyed her work with the Episcopal Church Foundation and she will miss her great colleagues there.  But we are both thrilled that her work will now focus on staff development, one of her true talents, and that she'll be based in Western Mass.  We'll be able to live together full time, again.

You know, we have this idea in our culture that time progresses in a linear fashion, that we move along, inexorably, in one direction.  But I'm learning that perhaps our lifelines can be more curved, that they can circle back, arc and bend.  Perhaps more like a spiral, than a line.

While packing up all our stuff the last couple weeks, I've been listening to a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Ani DiFranco.  She's been my long-time favorite musician--scrappy, earnest, huge-hearted, and fierce.  Listening to her music these past few weeks was a kind of retrospective on my life, and I enjoyed remembering all her different phases.  Seeing her the first time in '93, alone on the stage in Somerville, tiny with a huge guitar and black duct tape securing her guitar-pick press-on nails.  Driving the back roads of Massachusetts with my friend Shannon, blasting Ani on the tape-deck.  Buying "Dilate" and playing it for Anne in our apartment at Union Seminary, saying "Wait, wait, you have to listen to this song..."  Waiting in line for hours for her open-admission concert at SummerStage, with Jeni and Ryan.  Seeing her at Irving Plaza, with Vince and David.  Driving to her concert in New Haven with Brian and Jim riding the whole way in the back of the truck.  Her band growing from one drummer, to drummer and bass player, to having Maceo Parker on the trumpet.  Her sound evolving, changing all the time.  And then going to her concert this summer, with just Ani on the stage again, alone, tiny, with a big-ass guitar.

The circle loops back on itself, but is not the same.  The empty room is not so empty after all.  I feel as if I am in love with the past and the present; I can hold them both in my heart.

While we were packing, Ani's song "Buildings and Bridges" came on the queue, and Anne remarked about how this song captures her love for the city, and for life:

buildings and bridges
are made to bend in the wind
to withstand the world,
that's what it takes
all that steel and stone
are no match for the air, my friend
what doesn't bend breaks
what doesn't bend breaks