Midwood sits on a bluff above the Hudson River, just north of the border between Dutchess and Columbia Counties in New York.  The river, so much a part of Midwood’s history, flows downstream, wide and straight at this expanse. The rose-tinted house looks across to the Catskill Mountains, Round Top in the center of the skyline.  Woodstock lies somewhere over those hills. The distant view from the back porch is almost unique among the great Hudson River houses, being devoid of any buildings marring the serenity of the picture spread out against the sky.  At night a single green light blinks from the opposite shore.


The privilege of participation in the life of Midwood is immeasurable. The warmth of family, hospitality, generosity and civility must be among the last remnants of a time when such qualities still exist and are valued. Whether it can last into future generations is in question.  Without doubt it will never be the same. One extraordinary woman maintains more than this house, this place where grace and comfort pervade every room, every vista, every path that leads to a view Constable might have painted. She maintains a tradition grounded in culture, conversation among old friends and new, books and art, liberal beliefs, children and grandchildren, morning expeditions along the river, lunches on the lawn, dinners in the dining room surrounded by luminous bookshelves.  The city is far away, both by miles and gentility. Yet Midwood remains a beacon, pointing toward something larger than ourselves.

Where can we go from here?  Every time I leave Midwood I wonder if there will be a next time.  Will I sleep again in the upstairs silence of bedrooms named Velazquez, River View, Washburn?  I live far from the Hudson Valley, on the other side of the country.  The hills and farms and architecture of Columbia Country, so rich in the nation’s history, reside in memories of that house and the times spent under it’s great blanket of happiness.  Every time I’m there I feel like a fugitive landed in a more perfect place.


Three hours south another world jars us back into reality.  Driving down the leafy Taconic Parkway it emerges in stages; countryside yields to Westchester suburbs, to the chaos of the Bronx along the highway, to the sudden skyline of towering Manhattan.  Depending upon the approach, the Hudson reappears on the Upper West Side, though the jumbled wharfs and apartment buildings of New Jersey on the opposite shore are as far from Midwood’s harmony as the moon.  The life of the great city slowly marks the passing of something more than a long weekend away.


I’m lucky that six and a half hours in the air away from New York I can land in a city as beautiful as San Francisco, serene in its own toy-city isolation from the rest of America. No other city replicates or can even approach the astonishing liberal openness of these hills sliding into the Pacific Ocean.  I’ve heard that George W. Bush never set foot in the city during the eight years of his administration.  Barack Obama visits frequently.  In its own urban atmosphere, San Francisco might be a citified image of Midwood’s heritage and beauty.  The Bay is as historical and embracing as the Hudson River.  It’s an odd comparison. Snow never falls on San Francisco and the Bay never freezes over with ice.  Fog rarely covers Columbia County; lazy, hot mid-summer afternoons rarely occur in the City-by-the-Bay.

I’m returning this time from Midwood’s tranquility to greet another special warmth and joy: it’s called love. From the doorway of the South End Club walked a woman named Brenda. She walked into my life.  She lives in my future.


Life has many surprises and many mysteries.  We never know where love comes from. Or where it goes. It breaks hearts…and creates unimaginable happiness.  To wrap our arms around love, and our beloved, is to experience something removed from all the drama, activity and potential misery of the world.


Memories of Midwood, friends in New York, love in San Francisco, reside alongside many blessings. My boys give me infinite pleasure, as far and deep as the sea.  Sam is graduating from law school today.  His marriage in Finland last December to his lovely Saga was out of a fairy tale. It seems like yesterday his yellow hair was as bright as sunshine, glowing in the sunlight of Australian beaches.  David is a grown man, husband and father.  His life is busy, too busy, with all the responsibilities of family, teaching, more school. His enthusiasms–photography, headphones, gear, anything that can be researched and enjoyed–keep him in order and balance.  Adam is poised in that precious moment between student and the grown-up life of work, graduate school, maybe marriage. He’s working his first job in the neuro research lab at Nielsen. He and Rachel moved a week ago into their own, first-time, apartment in Oakland.  They’re thrilled.

Where can I go from here?  Large challenges remain.  Life passes.  My children grow.  Midwood resides in memory.  I hope to be there again.  I hope to walk in the late August tangle of asters and Queen Anne’s lace spread through the meadows, summer at its fullest, on the edge of autumn and the edge of time.


The legacy of Midwood lives in what I can take from that graceful place and share in my own life.  It’s the only repayment I can give: to offer my own experience of a life well-lived, providing a safe haven from the everyday burdens we all experience, especially to those who can never experience that life on the banks of the Hudson River.  I can give this in my fellowship with other men, with my colleagues at work, with my children, with the woman I love.  We can never know what comes next.  We don’t need to know.  All we have to do is take what we have and create a new future that doesn’t exist today.

Thank you Midwood.


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