Saturday, December 02, 2006

We have landed!

We have been here a full week, and it still feels right, although I check myself every day to make sure. Usually when I move I have a Talking Heads moment of, my god, what have I done! But I haven't had that yet. Maybe later.

We have all been unpacking and getting organized. Our rental house is mostly set up now and it's quite cozy. I could live a long time in a place like this if it were maybe a third bigger. It turns it was a button factory and was moved here from north Amherst in the late 18th century and converted into a home.

The downstairs has a large eat-in kitchen, which we've also stocked with cookbooks and Lily's art supplies. I'd forgotten how much I've missed a big kitchen. There's also a large living room in the front of the house, and a long rectangular room off the front door they call the master bedroom, I think because it has the largest closet. We're using it for our office and the remaining boxes at the moment. All the floors except the kitchen are those wide pine boards and the ceilings are low, so it feels snug.

The upstairs is two good-sized bedrooms but they are under steep eaves, especially Lily's room. The ceiling in our room is less steep and we were able to put both our bureaus up there, although not our queen-sized boxspring, so we sleep on the mattress on the floor. Each room has a window and a skylight; ours looks east and Lily's looks west. Right at the top of the stairs is an open area and I've set up some milk crate-and-board bookshelves, just like when I was in college, for Lily, along with a good reading lamp and some pillows. She loves to sit there and read.

We have the two-story half of the house and a young couple live in the one-story half. They described themselves as untypical undergrads, in that they don't have lots of loud parties. They have a small dog, he plays Irish music, and they are both friendly and very quiet and we never see them.

In front of the house is route 9, aka Belchertown Road, a busy road, but there are large trees and a stockade fence, both of which were damaged last night in a brief thunderstorm. We heard a crash and half a tree, 30 feet long, came down right next to the house and blocked the driveway. It took out some of the fence and also the Irish musician's bike, unfortunately, but that's all. The male half of our wonderful landlord couple was here at 7:00 a.m. today to cut it up. He came early because he wanted to be sure to get to the UMass football game; university sports are a big deal around here. Today, for instance, there were 11 games in Amherst alone. They were expecting 30,000 people and have put on an extra 90 police. UMass has great teams, I think they are division one, and the football team is doing really well.

The family on the farm next door breeds dairy cows (can you see the holstein in the middle of this picture, between the two buildings?). We hear the cows mooing and the rooster crowing in the morning. A fourth grade girl lives there -- she has her own chicken, named Mouse Fur -- and she and Lily have become friends. They ride the bus together and the fathers go out to wait with them in the morning, Dave in his slippers and sipping tea, and chat. The parents are very friendly and used to breed cows for Heifer International, among other things. The views behind our house are wonderful -- long cow fields and then the Pelham Hills. It's supposed to snow Monday and we hope and expect to cross-country ski a fair amount this winter, given snow, of course. Global warming has hit New England, too, of course. If there's no snow, we'll bundle up and hike.

Dave and Lily went for a bike ride yesterday on the tagalong and had a great time. Later on in the afternoon we got Lily a second-hand bike at a great bike shop. We also got her some snow pants and boots and ski gloves, and me a ski jacket, so we are getting prepared; at least we know it will be cold. I grew up outside of Boston so the weather, the dreary end of November, the waning light, the trees, the very air all feel familiar to me on a basic, cellular level. So far, Dave, who has never lived off the Isle of Long, seems to be adjusting well, too. He's had lunch with his two college roommates, he's baked yeasty dinner rolls and popovers, and good thick mushroom soup with barley, and in general is being very domestic.

Speaking of Lily, she had a great first week. She loves her new school and has made several friends already. She goes to Fort River School, about three-quarters of a mile away, and it's very open, friendly, welcoming, warm, accessible. It's weird to be in a school that's all on one floor, but of course the classrooms are good-sized, light and airy. The class has gym and music and art every week, and they play outside every day. Her teacher, Ms. Davis, is young and friendly and she and the students have been very welcoming to Lily. Ms. Davis lived in Gambia for two years and the class will be writing to students in Nairobi as part of their social studies work. Amherst also has loads of other resources, art and music, and lots of outdoor activities, of course. I expect we'll all sign up for more of that in the new year.

We are getting to know the town and the surrounding areas, meeting new people and renewing old friendships and aquaintances. My mother came to visit and help us unpack this week, and on Tuesday while Lily was in school, she and Dave and I took a drive up to Greenfield, about a half hour north, and had lunch and looked at the shops. On the way back we drove slowly through Historic Deerfield, with its wonderful old homes, but didn't stop. Next time.

We are finding we can get most of the basic food we've grown accustomed to in New York. Lots of independent cafes with WiFi, good sushi, good burritos, Brueggers bagels (at least they're boiled!). No hot-out-of-the-pot mozzarella, but almost all the produce is local, so it's a give and take. We are on a waitlist for a local CSA. There's also a Whole Foods, a Trader Joe's -- now that we are away from the Park Slope Food Coop I start to understand the appeal of Trader Joe's -- and a place called Atkins Farms. Plus there are several food coops around, and one that's about a year away from opening. We might join Pioneer Valley Co-Housing as associate members, so we can eat dinner there and hang out with that community from time to time.

In our spare time we've been doing stuff like getting library cards, registering the car, inspecting the car -- when the insurance runner picked up our plates at the RMV the state just punched in my name and my Cambridge address came up from 18 years ago! No one noticed until it caught my eye, and our poor insurance agent had to go back the next day and get it corrected -- finding doctors and dentists, and generally getting oriented.

We wondered if we were rushing it a bit to register the car so fast, but not only is our insurance about half what it was, it turns out our registration is the best proof of residency we have. We've used it to get library cards and bank accounts, and we'll use it for access to the town dump/recycling center (apparently lots of discarded skis and things).

We all love the library, which, like the post office, is not as big as Brooklyn but a thousand times more efficient and, yes, there's that word again, friendly. Lily's going to a kids' bookgroup on Tuesday after school. The library has movies and music, of course, and lots of popular books that have long waits in Brooklyn are either on the shelf or easily attainable.

There's loads of art and music and events. I hope we go square dancing. A new good movie theater opened in Amherst over Thanksgiving. We look forward to finding a sitter and going out one night soon. One thing I've noticed immediately is that I find the smaller sizes -- of institutions, stores, even roads and the general area -- and fewer choices make me feel less overwhelmed by all the changes. My daily life feels more manageable. We do drive a lot but we have been walking and biking, too; we are not far from town.

Next on my agenda is looking for work, so I will be calling local folks for informational interviews and searching the job ads. I have faith that someone here will want the skills I offer. Our condo is in contract, with the closing scheduled for early January, so we expect to start househunting in the new year. We'll definitely have a guest room so make your reservations!

It's a really different world, and Brooklyn feels very close in my heart, but very far away geographically. I don't know what exactly compelled me to come here at this time, after all these years of imagining life in the Pioneer Valley. But I tell people here that I woke up in the end of August and thought, It's time to move to Amherst. Subsequently it's all happened quickly and quite smoothly. So far it feels really right.


  1. Sabrina Ring (age 6)Dec 3, 2006, 7:12:00 PM

    Dear Lily

    I love your room. I think your room looks good! I like your house! those are all my comments.

    Love Sabrina

  2. Cool, another blog to bookmark and look forward to. Glad you're all settling in so comfortably. The place looks great.


  3. What a mental picture ... Dave in slippers sipping tea. The life of a 'country squire' :-)


  4. Ohhh, I feel so relaxed just looking at it! Maybe I should move...?

  5. it sounds just delightful, sash! i even had a pang of longing for a slower more humane life. sigh. life in bklyn goes on! hectic hectic, but good, too, in a totally different kind of way. love love love the house--perfect first resting spot. love how well lily -- really all of you -- are doing. and love the idea of this blog. i'll be checking in regularly! kim xoxo

  6. oh, and I adore the cow! xoxo

  7. I gotta say, it's a lot easier to take it slow when you don't have a job... and yes, Darlene, you should TOTALLY move here!

  8. Absolutely lovely. I felt like I was there when I was reading this and actually can't wait to visit. We all miss you but we're so glad things are going so well with the move. We love you. Sarah


    I just kind of started a blog...nothing great yet but it's good to have...


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