When I first started teaching, I lived in Washington Heights, right underneath Fort Tryon Park’s huge hill. The neighborhood was then a mix of Dominican and Orthodox Jewish families, some of whom had connections with Yeshiva U.. I found out later that my grandmother, though not Orthodox, had lived within a few blocks of my apartment half a century before me, right after she reached the United States, and less than a year after she had walked off a Nazi transport train disabled by an Allied bombing run, shrapnel still in her breast.
I was teaching 6th grade Life Science (2 classes), 7th grade Physical Science (2 classes), and 8th grade Earth Science (2 classes). I knew the least about Earth Science, so I spent the most time thinking about it. Every weekend day, and some days after school, I would climb up the hill to Fort Tryon and go walking along the path beneath the Cloisters Museum, looking out over the Hudson, and thinking about how the water had carved out the rock I was standing on, how the river and its valley had been formed not too long ago, most likely when people were already living nearby, and how the rock itself– jagged, shiny, folded into swirling shapes, was old, older than mammals or birds.
In the end, we are all pushed around by forces bigger than ourselves.