I'm in the middle of a three-week vacation in New York. It was supposed to be a two-week vacation, planned long ago when I made it known that the only thing I wanted for my 40th birthday was to spend as much time in NY as I could afford. It got extended by a week because I had to come out early for the CBS Sunday Morning shoot. (no rescheduled air date yet, btw) I spent the first week in a great little studio in the East Village, and then moved to a two-bedroom that I'm sharing with friends. Thanks to a last-minute problem with the apartment I'd rented and an extraordinary bit of good luck on Craigslist, for these last two weeks I'm in an indescribably luxurious Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park. Under any other circumstances I could never afford this place. To be honest, it wouldn't occur to me to even look for an apartment in this part of town –I like a funky place in the Village much more than a posh place uptown.
But you know what? The posh uptown apartment is starting to go to my head. I am starting to entertain wildly unrealistic notions of a comfortable Manhattan lifestyle in which I am on a first-name basis with the doorman and the only art on the walls are the expansive and serenely soundproofed windows that display an ever-changing panorama of this city I love more than any other place in the world.
And maybe, it occurs to me now, I love this city more than gardening. I have always said that if not for all sorts of practical considerations, I would live in New York. One of those practical considerations has always been the garden. Sure, I could make do with a balcony or a terrace or a roof garden or a fire escape or a sunny window or those little spaces in front or back of a brownstone or a community garden or the park or some such thing. But that's not the kind of garden I have at home–a real, full-sized backyard with chickens wandering around–and how, I have always said, how could I ever survive without that?
Well, it's starting to occur to me that I could. I could give up gardening for this.
It doesn't mean that I'm disloyal to the cause. It just means that gardening–for some of us, anyway– is specific to a time and place in one's life. There could be a Manhattan era in my life–one in which I write books and explore every inch of this gorgeous city and memorize the subway stops and truly become a New Yorker–and don't really garden that much. If I want flowers, I'll buy an orchid. If I want trees, I'll go to the park.
None of this, of course, is actually going to happen, which makes the question of what one would trade gardening for a hollow intellectual exercise. I am sadly lacking in wealthy patrons who could fund such a fantasy. But in this gilded pied-a-terre, with its marble bathroom and Manhattan-sized kitchen with a fridge large enough for nothing more than a few bottles of Champagne and a jar of olives, it seems all too alluring. There are things I would give up for this. Oh, yes there are.