I moved to a small town in Upstate New York not quite a year ago–last August (2010). I moved here because this was the most appealing town in a reasonable commuting radius of Utica, where my second-and-final husband Ricardo works. No chance were we going to live in Utica, a poorly planned, post-industrial, downtrodden city if there ever was one (okay, okay, the interior of the restored train station is handsome and there is a decent Vietnamese restaurant). Small Falls is about 20 minutes east of Utica. I was the more flexible of the two of us, as I can live–and evidently blog, too!–anywhere I have access to the internet. I came from the Boston area, where I was barely getting by as a freelance writer (occasional books and magazine articles). The cost of living around here is nice and low. I could keep my career.
We also chose Small Falls because it is pretty. Nestled in a gorge, it has a modest Main Street, about three blocks long. Half was torn down in yet another example of misguided 1960s urban-renewal zeal, to make way for an ugly shopping plaza. The other half is a handsome block of mostly brick, mostly historic buildings.
The famous Erie Canal flows through town! I didn’t realize this until I lived here, but much of the canal–sensibly enough–utilizes the course of the Mohawk River, just widened or tamed along the way. In this gorge, the river is rocky and there is a small, roaring waterfall–the Small Falls. On the edge of the town, the river and the canal split. A bit further downstream, they rejoin. So the river runs free. The canal deals with the nearly 30-foot elevation drop via an impressive but aging lock. This area was initially and remains my favorite part of town. I love water, the sight and sound of it, plus the abutting cliffs are pretty, dripping with the occasional thin waterfall or rill, ferns, and little tenacious trees. * I’ll share what I’ve learned about the geology of this place later.
We liked Small Falls, then, because it is scenic and because it is small. We can walk easily into town or down to the river and canal. My car–so heavily used for even the simplest errands back in the Boston area–remains parked for days on end. There’s a good food coop, a disappointing but sometimes handy general grocery store, a cafe, some banks, a small but well-stocked hardware store…and too many empty storefronts.
This blog will chronicle and describe not just my new life here (probably mostly interesting to me and my family and friends) but more importantly, I hope to explore what it feels like and means to commit to a new home.