On a trip to a giant vegetable farm in Orange County a few years ago, I listened to the farm manager detail all the ways he’d worked to keep his fields free of birds: scarecrows, plastic owls, noise cannons, and–most incredibly–recordings of birds screeching as they were killed by hawks. Nothing worked. The birds adapted to everything.
“Someone has put cries of birds on the air like jewels.” — Anne Carson, Plainwater
(at Goatfell Farm)
If someone made this much noise in the city while you were trying to sleep you’d call the cops.
“Panic jumped down on Geryon at three a.m. He stood at the window of his hotel room. Empty street below gave back nothing of itself.
Cars nested along the curb in their shadows buildings leaned back out of the street. Little rackety wind went by.
Moon gone. Sky shut. Night had delved deep. somewhere (he thought) beneath this strip of sleeping pavement
the enormous solid globe is spinning on its way–pistons thumping, lava pouring from shelf to shelf,
evidence and time lignifying into their traces. At what point does one say of a man that he has become unreal?”
– Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
You accommodate yourself to the idea of losing so much when you live in New York, or else you go crazy here. Things you take for granted in other places, like a view from your bedroom window or light hitting your kitchen at dinnertime, can be gone as fast as it takes a developer to throw up a brick box. I’ve seen apartments in old buildings in Manhattan where windows were just closed off entirely when a lot next door got built up.
So I relish all the weird ways that we get light in our apartment–the morning sun reflected off the glass of the building across the street, the sunset bouncing off our cheesy steel counters and filling the kitchen. Real estate madness does damage in so many ways here–check WNYC’s “There Goes The Neighborhood” for a good overview–but one of the little wounds it inflicts is throwing neighborhoods into shadow for a few extra hours a day. Our neighbor’s roof garden changed completely when a tower shot up across the street and cut several hours of sunlight from his tomato plants.
I grew up in a place where views can be counted on for generations, and where sunlight is almost never threatened. I’ll never understand the perspective my children will grow up with, from which any skyline is only temporary, all light only held on loan. #sunsetprovision
You better run, you better take cover.