Movement

Making the Move

Urbanites consider the freedom and fallout involved when making the leap from city to country.

As we move through new spaces, what are the movements that occur within? In the above video, filmmakers Alex Brodsky and Mary Stuart Masterson follow former city dwellers that have moved to the pastoral lands of the Hudson Valley, examining all the physical, mental, and emotional nuances that come with readjusting your rhythms to a slower pace of life. In the companion essay below, writer and musician Alexa Wilding examines her own experience of leaving behind a life in New York City for something very different, considering all that was lost — and ultimately gained — in the process.


Staying Still

A staunch New Yorker finds herself inexplicably drawn to a quieter life.

I STOPPED ON Route 21C, waiting for the cows to cross the road. I waited. And waited. How many cows are there? The waiting reminded me of being stuck on the subway, trying to be patient, only to huff and puff as though I could move the train with my breath, all the while tapping my pointy boots. And now, with my foot on the break, in my scuffed Blundstones, I felt the inevitable anxiety. My son Lou’s upcoming cancer scans, the book I couldn’t seem to write. Just when I thought I was going to explode, the sun, most graciously, did it for me. Orange turned to pink, then to gold, and I was held, marveling at something bigger than myself — the light, changing against the ever-unfolding Hudson Valley sky.

I knew upstate New York had changed me when it didn’t feel like total torture staying still. Some days I even looked forward to the waiting — alone with my thoughts, our family’s evolving story, even the cows in the road. I saw old parts of myself in some of the struggling faces from the most recent influx north. With their urban antennae, they were still picking up everyone’s stories but their own.

Take the lady ordering an oat milk latte at the new cafe in town. She made it very clear that, actually, she was next in line. She also made it clear that the waiting was hell on Earth: “Excuse me, excuse me?” she called to the barista, who was on country time. After checking her phone, her purse, her wallet, her phone again, nothing, not even the sun seeping through the cafe windows, was enough to fill the void.

“What’s with these people?” I joked with a friend, as though I’d been up here forever.

“Sounds like our new neighbors,” he sighed. “They never want to ‘just’ come over. I have to meet them at an orchard that’s also a brewery and somehow a pop-up-shop too.”

For me, leaving New York City was a slow, brutal burn, like the sun setting between buildings on the city’s West Side.

I laughed, but I could relate. Even after four long years, I have days when I’m grateful for the lattes, for the orchards working overtime. We all have stories we want to run from; but upstate, after a while, there’s really nowhere left to hide.

For me, leaving New York City was a slow, brutal burn, like the sun setting between buildings on the city’s West Side. I was a singer-songwriter for over 10 years, dubbed a rising star and “One to Watch” in fancy magazines. Then, suddenly, no one was watching. I felt I was a comet that didn’t quite live up to expectations. The birth of my twin sons, West and Lou, quickly, passionately, filled this emptiness. Then Lou was diagnosed with cancer as a one-year-old. Up nights at the hospital I’d call out, “Excuse me, excuse me!” into the void. The endless waiting — for Lou to get better, for something to interrupt the stillness — was hell on Earth. I longed to turn the page, to a place that had yet to let me down. I dreamed of the sun setting behind mountains, where it was supposed to.

When we first moved upstate, I was shell-shocked from Lou’s illness, and navigating a sea change from musician to writer. I was also enmeshed in our family’s medical reality, reading every book on Buddhism and “letting go” I could get my hands on. I’d ponder “No mud, no lotus,” while I scrambled eggs for dinner, editing pages, remembering to give Lou his medicine. I was covered in mud, but where was this lotus?

Sometimes I distracted myself in these orchard/brewery/pop-up shops that kept sprouting up like mushrooms in the rain. And certainly, there was joy to be found there. But it was in nature, unobstructed, that I finally began to rewrite my story. Nature is never a distraction. She commands your attention, lovingly asking you to reconsider yourself in her care.

That said, after cancer, and then the long pandemic days, I, too, needed a break from the stillness and the mud. Newly vaccinated, I took the train back to my natural habitat. I leapt from the F to the 6 trains, up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, down to the Odeon — the landscapes I knew best. “Excuse me, excuse me!” I demanded lattes, drinks, and dinners with friends. But on my last night, it took forever to get back to my sister’s apartment in Brooklyn. I’d soaked through my sundress, exhausted from bulldozing through my former life. The trains were all rerouted, and apparently so was I.

On the ride back upstate, I was lulled by the river. I wondered, Where does the river begin, where does it end? I panicked, like when my kids ask, “How does a plane fly?” and for a second I’m not quite sure. A quick Google search confirmed that while the Hudson River’s source was up north, the river has a two-way tide. Like me, sometimes it can’t make up its mind.

Lately, I drop everything for the sunset. When I was little, I never understood why the grown-ups made such a big deal about the setting sun. I think of the writer Colette, her mother Sido in “Break the Day” declining an invitation to visit because she couldn’t miss the blooming of her beloved pink cactus. This is how I feel about the day’s end. I drag my chair up to the highest point on our rented half-acre of land. As the sun morphs into a blossom all its own, I think of the latte lady, of my ever-changing self. How if I ran into her at one of the orchard/brewery/pop-up shops, I’d take her by the hand. I’d show her the crooked trees, the place where the apples fall into the shadows, onto the mud. Where an orchard is just what it is. It doesn’t need to be anything else.

I watch the sun set pink like Sido’s cactus, or the promised lotus. As it fades from lilac to silver, into night, for a second I panic; it’s all such a mess. And then everything, just everything, is still.


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Alexa Wilding’s Hudson Valley Favorites

Here, the writer shares where to eat, shop, and stay in the Hudson Valley.

  • Behida Dolić

    In Hudson, Bosnian-born milliner, artist, and cancer survivor Behida Dolić will send you tap-dancing down Warren Street with a new hat and a renewed zest for life!

  • Little Rico

    My kids and I love Angelica Hernandez's Little Rico for cold-pressed juice and Latina comfort food.

  • Rodgers Book Barn

    On the weekends, I love to drive north to Hillsdale and hide at Rodgers Book Barn, a timeless maze of a used bookstore tucked in the woods.

  • Piaule Catskill

    For visitors looking to spend more than just a day in the Hudson Valley, check out and check in to Piaule Catskill, a network of private cabins rooted in clean lines and Scandinavian design.

  • Florent

    I'm a devotee of Mary Ahern's new biodynamic skincare line Florent. She's a true alchemist and her tiny shop is like stepping into a Parisian perfumery.

  • Lil’ Deb’s Oasis

    For dinner, happiness is queer-owned Lil' Deb’s Oasis' tropical fare, and don’t miss their performance nights!

  • Fahari Bazaar

    After book browsing, it’s over to Chatham to Fahari Bazaar, where designer and mother Fahari Wambura creates free-flowing dresses with fabrics from her native Tanzania.

  • Behida Dolić

    In Hudson, Bosnian-born milliner, artist, and cancer survivor Behida Dolić will send you tap-dancing down Warren Street with a new hat and a renewed zest for life!

  • Florent

    I'm a devotee of Mary Ahern's new biodynamic skincare line Florent. She's a true alchemist and her tiny shop is like stepping into a Parisian perfumery.

  • Little Rico

    My kids and I love Angelica Hernandez's Little Rico for cold-pressed juice and Latina comfort food.

  • Lil’ Deb’s Oasis

    For dinner, happiness is queer-owned Lil' Deb’s Oasis' tropical fare, and don’t miss their performance nights!

  • Rodgers Book Barn

    On the weekends, I love to drive north to Hillsdale and hide at Rodgers Book Barn, a timeless maze of a used bookstore tucked in the woods.

  • Fahari Bazaar

    After book browsing, it’s over to Chatham to Fahari Bazaar, where designer and mother Fahari Wambura creates free-flowing dresses with fabrics from her native Tanzania.

  • Piaule Catskill

    For visitors looking to spend more than just a day in the Hudson Valley, check out and check in to Piaule Catskill, a network of private cabins rooted in clean lines and Scandinavian design.

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Our Contributors

Alexa Wilding Writer

Alexa Wilding is a writer, musician, and mother of twins. After a decade as a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, she received her MFA from the Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn. Her writing most recently appeared in A Cup of Jo and Parents, where she shares her experience as a now two-time Cancer Mom. A lifelong New Yorker, Wilding and her family now live in Hudson, New York. She is working on a memoir about all of the above.

Alexandra Brodsky Director

Alex Brodsky is a photographer and filmmaker. Her films have screened at venues such as New Directors/New Films, the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Starz International Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, and the Nantucket Film Festival, among others. Her film, "Bittersweet Place," premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, garnering a special Jury Commendation. Her short, "Crazy Love," was commissioned by AFI. She is a founding partner of Quality Pictures with Mary Stuart Masterson and Cassandra Del Viscio, a production company located in the Hudson Valley dedicated to social impact.

Mary Stuart Masterson Director

Mary Stuart Masterson is an American actress and director. Her award winning film, TV and theater career includes roles in Some Kind of Wonderful, Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny and Joon, the title role in CBS’, Kate Brasher, and the Broadway musical, Nine. After moving to New York’s Hudson Valley, Masterson founded Stockade Works, a non-profit that trains, hires and mentors the local workforce in film production across all departments. In addition, she is the Founder of Upriver Studios, a state of the art soundstage complex opening in the Hudson Valley in 2019, and co-Founder of Storyhorse Documentary Theater Company.

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