February 19, 2014

Hudson River Calling

The Hudson River wasn't part of my life until I left for college, but as soon as the river valley became my new home, it had me for good. The train rides up from the city are a comfort to me, not in the way that the Long Island Railroad lulls me to half-sleep on long, dark nights with its familiar rocking and station calls, but in the way that it sparks that hopeful yearning, that anticipatory tug that only a journey home can bring. It hasn't truly been home since I donned that black cap and gown with the delicate, soft pink trim, but I suppose that when home is the place that fills your heart with wistful smiles and nostalgic tears, then maybe it will always be home, after all.

The river town names conjure up images of folk music and warm fireplaces. Hastings-on-Hudson, Ardsley-on-Hudson, Croton-on-Hudson. One by one, we pass through each station. My eyes always drift out towards the western bank of the river, so far away, enough that my outstretched fingers will never reach it. My sight settles on the river water, in the winter covered with ice sheets locked so tight over the surface that they would never let a secret slip through, in the summer sparkling and beckoning in the way that can only be caused by that special summertime sun. 

If I give in to the tug, I know that the cold river waters will cleanse my worried mind, soothe my tired thoughts. It will hold me and comfort me. I could let myself cry and mourn and celebrate and laugh in those waters. And though I won't dip a toe into those parts, the presence of the Hudson alone is enough to save me and give me relief. It is here, as I move alongside its banks, that I feel connected to the land, to myself, to my history. Simple moments, passed in half-silence and hushed memories. That's what my prayers are composed of, blessings with each breath, understanding and peace with each sway. 

I know that if we keep moving northward, we'll reach Poughkeepsie, and my heart will thump a bit faster as we soar past Garrison and Beacon. I know these parts. I know the small island with that lonely, captivating, abandoned castle fort. I know that little playground tucked behind the trees along the riverside. I know that predictable call of the conductor on the Metro North, "Poughkeepie, last and final station stop, Poughkeepsie!" I know that the Albany-bound Amtrak train on a weekday night is as quiet as a train can be, with only a select, weary few settling in to the dimmed cars. I know these cold waters, I know these forever trees, I know this familiar feeling. I know these parts.