The Face of Rock

Suburbia is exotic, I realize, for the urban dweller. The quiet, curved neighborhood streets of Riverdale are alien to a city block. Colonial-style houses enveloped in shiny white vinyl siding or dull, steak-red brick sit back on slopes of grass, the gray light of the clouded sky reflecting silver off of the windows. The lawns roll out towards the road like long carpets, instead of small brownfields pitied between apartments and brownstone townhouses. The long drone of cicadas and the eerie creaking of birds echo from the copse of dogwood and gorse. The neighborhood is almost empty. A father and son pass on the opposite side of the street, heads lowered underneath wide-brimmed hats. They subsume into Spaulding Lane. The houses, enclosed by white fences, frayed with dirt and chipped paint, look abandoned. Suburbia, actually, is eerie.

The neighborhood rounds out to a lawn on top of the Hudson River, and drops down into cliffs that lean down into the river water, the rocks gathering in craggy hills at the base of the mountain wall. Silver light hits the muddied river water, reflecting green, and on its kaleidoscope surface, a canoe sails next to a pittering swimmer, a red swimming cap skipping in and out of the water like a buoy. They dissolve beyond the wall of cliffs.

The face of rocks never changes. Layers of hardened sand, fragmented silt and blackened mud. Beds of sandstone where the water inflates and recedes. A coating of shale. The hereditary code of rock.

Perched on the edge of cliffs like a bird on a branch, the rock face of Inishmore stares blankly into the sky. My aunt Brighid once sat back in her floral armchair, a teacup perched in the palm of her hand, and narrated the history of Inishmore, one of three of the Aran Islands in the mouth of Galway Bay.

Brighid says the isle looks abandoned, with a network of pre-century cottages and dirt roads. But residents gather together in the one-roomed school and the dark pub with only one beer on tap. They drive wagons of people with horses and ponies. A converted warehouse holds a museum of prints, artifacts and paintings. The lacework of small, hand-built walls encloses livestock of cows, chickens, and pigs. Where the pavement has shattered into gravel, arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants side by side. An ancient language and culture live on.

Unconformity preserves the face of rocks. An older face of rock is exposed to erosion for a period of time before the deposition of the younger face continues. A buried weathering that separates two rock masses of different ages. Gaps in geologic record.

The air is stirring; the wind conducts itself restlessly through low hanging flowers and tree branches. I have walked to the edge of the cliffs on the Hudson River and stare down into the gap of the river. All rivers and floods seek out the ocean. If I jump into the river water, I would swim to the Irish Sea.