Little Forrest in the Big City

From a Tipi to Times Square

Little Forrest in the Big City

Little Forrest in the Big City
New York, New York, USA
March 28
From a Tipi to Times Square: I am a transplant to New York City from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I grew up in the mountains and deserts of the southwest, where my hippie parents taught wilderness survival. I, of course, went to art school to earn two art degrees which have lead me on a penniless journey producing work in my tiny apartment in uptown Manhattan. I'm trying to embrace the city and find my own place somewhere within it while writing about my experiences along the way.


Little Forrest in the Big City's Links

NOVEMBER 8, 2010 3:22PM

The wilderness lady in the Big Apple...

Rate: 2 Flag
My mother in Rockefeller Center absorbing the essence of Al Roker...

No matter how far one may roam, it seems like remnants of your past are never very far away. Now, nearly two thousand miles from the tiny rural town where I grew up, the first instance of my old life colliding directly with my new one occurred recently in the form of my mother taking on the big apple...

My mother is a "real hoot," and she would be the first one to tell you that. Being a self-proclaimed city girl at heart (having grown up in Washington, D.C., - the daughter of a Pentagon accountant), living in rural Colorado for the past three and a half decades, teaching wilderness survival and baking thousands of loaves of homemade whole-grain bread to sell to the masses in her little town has definitely been a dramatic change from her upbringing. Even while butchering chickens on mountain tops and finding endless ways to prepare various bean-centric dishes over a smoldering campfire in the wind and the rain, she would always find opportunities to bring in saucy anecdotes about her former city life. She was always so very proud of her teenage exploits, whether they were stories of being chased by security guards down the banisters of the Lincoln Memorial or dancing around in public fountains with her psuedo-hippie riff raff friends. She was a non-conformist and in her ultimate non-conformity, she chose a life of peaceful obscurity in the wide open wilderness of the west, far far away from the noises and lights of the big city...

As a child, I could never quite actualize the stories my mother would tell of her former life surrounded by so many different people from so many different places. Considering that my parents took me on my first wilderness survival program in the mountains when I was just several weeks old, my world was quite removed from one of diplomats, generals and socialites all thriving together in one place. I lived in a world where feuds between ranchers of cattle and sheep generated the juiciest of gossip available. For my parents, our tiny house with its menagerie of non-functioning automobiles and our proximity to so many wonders of the natural world were much more appealing than living a fancier life anywhere else. Even in self-imposed poverty, they had chased after their own dreams and found themselves right where they needed to be; nestled comfortably in the heart of the middle of nowhere. Over the last thirty-some odd years though, living in her own private version of "Walton's Mountain" has softened by mother just a bit.

My mother recently made her first voyage to New York since 1972 as a means to cash in on an expiring airline voucher and also to inspect my new life, in person. On our first morning out in my neighborhood, she made it clear that she was to be the solitary member of the Morningside Heights neighborly greeting committee, and say "hello" and "good morning" to every soul she passed on the street. Despite my attempts to explain that people just don't do that here, she boldly walked ahead of me and made her wholesome small town gesture to all of Amsterdam Avenue in opposition to the puzzled looks on the faces of the people whose mornings she'd just interrupted with her mountain-fresh effervescence. Like a good son, I walked 5 paces behind her as she intentionally did her best to get the better of me, and I could tell she enjoyed every second of it.

Touring the city with her was like seeing everything through the eyes of a stranger deserted on an alien planet, and I enjoyed that. I thought she was going to disinfect the entire city with hand sanitizer before she left, but she seemed to take in every moment as a memory to be kept for later use. From the gilded doorways of Saint John the Divine to the dingy mosaics in the subway stations, everything was an object of interest to be admired. It would have been almost cute if not every single pebble on the street was seen with audible "oohs" and "aahs" coming from her direction.

One of the highlights of the visit was our trip to Rockefeller center. For some bizarre reason, my mother watches the Today Show devoutly and has always had a huge crush on Al Roker. Although seeing the darkened studio in mid-day through the windows on the street wasn't as exciting as being among the mob of early morning fans (I think I would rather be dead than to have to endure such torture), she was pleased to at least actualize the location of her early morning television nostalgia. This and many other little scenes of notable New York locations compounded into what seemed like a waking dream in my mother's outward reactions. Whether it was going to the Met's Egyptian collection, eating confections in Little Italy or seeing the inside of a real Broadway theatre, my mother's child-like excitement brought the city to life in a way I did not expect. Leading her through a new world and watching her discovery of it all made me feel, for one of the first times in my life, less like a child and more like the "grown up" in my mother's presence.

By the time my mother went back home to the mountains, I felt like we'd shared something unique. In coming and seeing this place that I've worked so hard to be able to live in, and actually enjoying it, I feel like my mother was able to understand me in a new way that she hadn't before. I think it was definitely a relief for both of us when she arrived back, safely, in her cozy quiet little mountain town, but she definitely left a piece of her heart in the big city...

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LOVE this! You've captured so much--not only your wonderful "alien"mom but also the proud New Yorker that you are fast becoming... :) I've felt all these things guiding my family & friends around when I was young, and new to the city.
Wonderful post, I am enjoying your blog, your narrative voice is very clear and original.

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