Sunday, March 28, 2010


I have a new weekly commute: Driving to South Hadley, where Simmons rents a couple of classrooms and time in the library from Mount Holyoke College for its western Massachusetts library science grad students. And man, it is lovely. Saturdays are my long day, when I have two three hour classes with an hour in between. It's fine, but long. By the end of the day, I'm pretty whipped. But it's a fine commute, one I'm lucky to have.

Yesterday I pulled out of the driveway around 8am, a little early for my 9:15 class (it's a 20 minute drive). But I wanted to print some stuff at the GSLIS (graduate school of library and information science) office -- very nice perk, free printing -- and catch my reference professor at her "office" hours at the local cafe, the Thirsty Mind, before our class at 9:15, a nice service, on her part.

I had my thermos of green tea, my bottle of cold water, a little bag of almonds, my laptop, and my backpack with my various notebooks and pens and such. The sun hadn't been up that long and the light had that wonderful crisp early-morning quality. It was about 20 degrees--we've been having an unseasonal cold snap; in like a lamb and out like a lion this year--and my iPod was set on shuffle, with Dar Williams' Alleluia cued up first.

Alleluia, indeed. Alleluia, God! I cranked it up and sang along loudly, feeling a bit like a teenager. I'm off to school, I'm at the beginning of a new career, I have tons to do, but I'm working hard and doing well. The sun is still low in the sky, it's going to be a gorgeous clear day, and I am on the cusp of a new career that's exciting and fun and best of all, incredibly interesting and stimulating. Life is good.

Lately I've been flashing on a vivid memory of 20+ years ago. An April Saturday morning, my final semester at Wellesley. Twenty-seven years old, a bit of a late bloomer, and blissfully happy at Wellesley. I had just been accepted to Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, the fulfillment of a dream I'd had since I was at least 12. I was moving to New York City in September! Another dream coming true. I was sitting in the fabulous kitchen of my fabulous rent control apartment in Central Square, Cambridge, listening to Scott Simon reading the headlines at the top of Weekend Edition.

He finished, the theme music came on, all bold and powerful, he said, "today is Saturday, April Whatever, and this, is Weekend edition," all dramatic-like, and I burst into tears. The theme music to my life, my new life--who knew what the future held, exactly, but it was going to be journalism!--and I was on my way. Who knew, I could be working with Scott Simon in a year or two.

This is a little like that. The sun was shining and I was driving down route 47, a twisty, lovely road that follows the Connecticut River south for about, oh, seven miles, through farmland, asparagus fields, corn, hay, horses, cows. A mini-golf range that Lily's been to with friends. A marina on a little inlet of the river, at which point I always entertain a fantasy about keeping a boat at one of their slips.

A little further is a 15-foot sign post with several white markers placed on it, including one nearly at the top: flood markers, with dates on them, the last one was in the 1980s, so not so long ago. Then past trail heads and the road up Skinner's Peak. I've got the river on the right of me, to the west, and I'm curving around Skinner, to the east, on my left. Skinner, the farthest west mountain in the half dozen of the Holyoke Range--unless Mt. Tom across the river is considered to be part of that mountain family.

The road takes me down a couple of dips, across something called a brook that right now, with the spring thaw, looks like a small river. Private homes, some town playing fields, and into South Hadley and the campus. On the way home, the river's now on my left, and depending on when I leave school, I can see the most stunning sunsets, the vast stretch of reds and pinks and oranges lighting up the hills behind Easthampton and Northampton. I could look at the river for hours, and if I weren't so afraid of flooding, especially with global warming, I'd love to live near it, and really get familiar with it.

This is way different from the D train, or the dreaded F, which I did for a couple of years. Those have their pluses -- I can't read on my commute, and I don't get to see stuff like this, below, after Michael Jackson died. If anything, this is what I miss about New York City. But still, I wouldn't trade back. I love my new river.

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