I could start with the potholes - potholes, potholes everywhere - the roads heaving with them, hills and gullies that made my not-yet-paid-for car shake like a washing machine on spin dry.
Or I could start with the stars at night, the sky bejeweled with them, rhinestones on velvet.
I was in New Hampshire for a few days. Way up. Past the Notch. Among the mountains. To visit a friend. I had no cell service, no Wi-Fi, no instant Internet, no home delivery. Not completely shut off from the world, there was a phone and TV and lots of people coming and going, but to get a newspaper required driving 15 minutes - make that 25 because of the potholes - to a Rite Aid in town.
“Just down the road’’ is how my friend sees it. Just down the road is 20 minutes in one direction or 40 minutes in another, or an hour or more, distance and potholes irrelevant to her. She can see from her window the top of a mountain she has climbed. She can see a meadow, trees, earth, and sky. Deer graze in her yard.
She hears birds all day and the wind rustling and snow falling and rain trickling. These things sustain her.
I like them, too. But not as much as she does. I like the newspaper at my door and looking out my window and watching people walking by. I like having constant access to the Internet, not just sporadic. I like knowing that if I’m out of canola oil, all I have to do is cross the street and borrow some.
I walked my friend’s dog every day, three times a day, down a beautiful country road. There was no traffic to dodge, and the air smelled like earth, and I was surrounded by mountains and sky, and there were horse farms and streams just unfrozen, gushing and surging, and no horns and no sirens, just birds cawing and the sound of my footsteps and the tinkle of the dog’s leash, and it really was “God’s in His heaven. All’s right with the world.’’
Or it should have been.
Except that I found myself thinking about people being snatched off country roads. Who would hear? Who would know? And Stephen King, how he was run down by a car on a quiet country road, and how much more comfortable I am walking my son’s dog in New York City, where there are people everywhere.
There, I grab a baggie, put on the dog’s leash, take her on the elevator and off we go out into a world crowded with kids on scooters and people pushing baby carriages, and so many other people walking dogs. Talk and laughter and horns bleating and brakes squeaking. Exhaust and falafel and pretzels and coffee. Music and accents. The tremor of the subway.
I like that in a city you can get coffee on every corner and a bagel with cream cheese any time, night or day. I like the crazy, nonstop, noisy pace.
I like it until I don’t like it. Until I realize that I have been there too long and that I miss the stars.
Home now, I think of the stars in New Hampshire. I saw them while walking the dog at night. I fell asleep looking at them. I woke up sometimes at 2 or at 3, and there they were, magnificent.
I have Internet and Wi-Fi and a store where I can get M&Ms just a half-mile away. I have everything I need.
Except the stars.