in Letters, travels

Long Drives for Wilting Leaves

Dear Jessie,

I like how you haven’t discovered these posts yet. I don’t know where else to put these; and I’m not sure how to bring them up. One thing we are usually very good at, though, is telepathic good-timing. So you’ll see them when you see them.

I was really looking forward to the camping trip to the Catskills with L— during October study days, but it fell through on the night before. It sucks to be the person who wants something more than the other person in a team effort. But L— was going to be the one driving two hours, so I didn’t want to push it.

Still, we were itching to get out of the house, and at last settled on taking a 60-mile drive north to Poughkeepsie to see if we would have any luck with the foliage. As soon as we slid onto the highway, we agreed that it was the right decision to drag our bodies out. The leaves that walled the highway were not completely maroon and golden yet. But the colors did become more and more varied as we went further north, almost like if we kept on driving we would be following a gradient and reach a place where the leaves would be completely titian. It is an incredibly calming luxury to have a whole region’s autumnal pastime being taking long drives to see wilting leaves. “It is not everyone who has your passion for dead leaves,” Elinor, the “sense” in Sense and Sensibility (according to the commonly but reductively understood dichotomy) famously criticizes her sister’s raging sentimentality. But even Elinor would appreciate the beauty of this aimless pastime. It requires rather the exact opposite of passion.

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We chose to end up in Poughkeepsie because the Walkway Over the Hudson is purported to be “the world’s longest pedestrian bridge”. It spans across the Hudson River and is almost two-mile long. People call it upstate’s answer to the High Line since it used to be a railroad track as well. We thought the bridge kind of cheated the title though, since it starts half a mile in-land—you can build a bridge for as long as you want if you can start and end as far as you want. The bridge just wasn’t so impressive when it sounded like we would be walking across the Hudson River forever. But I guess that’s the river’s fault now.

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It’s funny that the last time I was in Poughkeepsie was four years ago when my mom, Jack, and I were visiting colleges. It feels, of course, so much longer ago than that, enough to make me briefly wonder what it would’ve been like if I had gone to Vassar. ?Though, one look at the drab town makes me glad that I didn’t. I recognized a diner called Alex’s by its sign and striped canopy as our car turned a corner. We ate there on the morning of my Vassar visit. The food made such an impression that my mom still sometimes brings up how she wishes I have gone to Vassar so that she could go to the diner again.

I was, in fact, very close to making Vassar a top choice, if it hadn’t somehow left me with a feeling of one of those convent schools in Hong Kong like Maryknoll or Marymount (never sure which is which), in spite of the intelligence it exudes. Plus, a red-bricked, historically women’s school is bound to please the mother and conjures unnecessary contrarian motivations in the daughter.

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Really, what a luxury this all is. For a second, I even thought, Yeah, I can live here and do this every year. There are parts about America that are pretty great.

And to think that there used to be a time when even the Metro-North was so foreign, so full of possibilities, and so desperately wanted to be made into a habit.

Jaime