The bats were gone. Like me, having moved out. I could not hear their high pitched chatter from the bat box attached to a second floor roofline. At dusk, their bodies would not swoop and dart to feed on the mosquito in the sky above. Still, the yard looked exactly the same, the large old oak trees doing their summer duty of shading the lawn and porches. The house I had designed and built with my wife had been rented to strangers the year before. It was fairing well without us. My wife and I left North Carolina and moved to Brooklyn, NY to write a new chapter in our personal and professional lives. We left behind a dream home. One that had raised our kids and provided us with cool night breezes, turkey calls, and visits from deer, fox, and humming birds. Although it had an artist’s studio to die for, it no longer fulfilled my needs as an artist. My life-long interests in humanitarian work had taken me out of the secluded studio and into the larger world, and although the local newspaper had given me front page coverage, I felt like I had maxed out what I could hope to do as an artist in that city.
It was tough leaving. I had lived in the same county since 1969 and knew the roads by heart. Driving down congested four lanes I could recall them being a dirt road. I had said hello to newborn children and goodbye to parents in its hospitals. It was time for a change, so we packed up a few things to take to New York and farmed out the rest to family for safe keeping. Securing a discount on the moving van because we were headed North, not South, we left for The Belly of the Beast - my brother’s nickname for New York City. We arrived having spent more money, energy, and emotion than anticipated.
It had been a year - a successful year - and I was back to check on the house and make arrangements for one more round of renting. As I washed the porches and cider siding to pretty the old place up for viewing, I took a few moments to pick black berries from the old garden, its soil soft and giving like so many quilt blankets from years of mulching. I felt as if my legs grew up from it like sunflower stalks. I could stay planted here I thought, then a humming bird approached me, one that I had watched dart about the year before fighting for a place at a plastic feeder. It had wintered in Central America, I knew. And I had done the same in Brooklyn.
Soon after we parted ways, each seeking our own flowers.
( Black Coffee, Please is an occasional blog by photographer Todd Drake spotlighting his experience of making art and a new life in New York City. Copyrighted Todd Drake 2016)