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March 2012

Shinran Shonin 1

“From now on I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” ― Ray Bradbury

Shinran Shonin 2

The Shinran Shonin statue at the Buddhist temple on Riverside Drive (between W. 105th and 106th), NYC. This remarkable statue survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, was brought to New York in 1955, and stands as  "a testimonial to the atomic bomb devastation and a symbol of lasting hope for world peace.”

The Great God Pan by George Gray BarnardThe Great God Pan by George Grey Barnard, at Columbia University (Broadway & W. 116th)


Spring arrives in New York City

Trees in bloom, Riverside ParkTrees in bloom, Riverside Park

Daffodils Cherry blossoms and daffodils, Riverside Park

Water's edge, Riverside ParkWater's edge, early morning, Riverside Park

West 97th Street, NYCTree and sky on Broadway &  W. 97th

The Bear Cat, NYCThe Bear Cat sculpture by Peter Woytuk on Broadway & W. 67th

West 103rd Street, NYCA canopy of blossoms, Amsterdam & W. 103rd

"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."   - Rainer Maria Rilke

"It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"  - Mark Twain


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today, music from the east coast of the U.S. (during my last few days here): 

Above: Chris Thile (of New York's The Punch Brothers), Aoife O'Donovan (of Boston's Crooked Still), Edgar Meyer, Stuart Duncan, and Yo-Yo Ma perform "Here and Heaven," a very beautiful song from the Goat Rodeo Sessions CD.

Below: Aoife O'Donovan's band,  Crooked Still, performs "Look On and Cry."

And one more song and band from the lively nu-folk/alt-bluegrass scene here in the U.S.:

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, out of North Carolina, performs "Hit 'Em Up Style." To learn more about their music, there's an interesting little video here.


Good news at last:

The situation I came to New York to attend to has reached a successful conclusion, and I'll be heading home soon. I feel like I should have something more mythic and eloquent to say about it here, but after six months of having our lives dominated by this fearful, time-consuming, and costly ordeal, its resolution has left me somewhat stupefied with relief. I'm so very grateful to everyone who organized, contributed to, and participated in the auction last December, which gave us the financial resources to seek the expert help that has made this outcome possible. It's been a long journey, but the end is in sight now. The sun is shining. I'm going home.

The gorgeous song above comes from the much-anticipated new Mumford & Sons album (due out later in the year). It's called "Home," and although the lyrics as a whole don't relate to my own situation, the last lines of the song do, and have been running through my head all morning....

Coming home


Encountering Ghosts

SJD1

One of my favorite places in New York: the gardens surrounding The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, on Amsterdam between W. 110th & 112th. Although hemmed in by tall apartment buildings and the noise and bustle of Amsterdam, when you step into the gardens the surrounding city seems to magically disappear (as it did quite literally in these photos, snapped on a misty morning). It's a timeless, sacred space that welcomes all...no matter what your spiritual beliefs may be.

SJD2

I used to live just around the corner from St. John's, many years ago, when Ellen Kushner and I shared an old apartment in a gargoyle-bedecked building on W. 110th. Ellen was working on her first novel, Swordspoint, at the time; I was busy with projects like the "Fairy Tales" series; and we were writing Borderland stories together. In our thoroughly urban lives, it was a blessing to have this enchanted green space to steal away to when needed...particularly as the area was a whole lot rougher then: a colorful, lively, but run down neighborhood with an edge of danger.

SJD3

SJD4

Coming here now, I can almost see the ghosts of the young women we were back then,  sitting on benches tucked away in hidden corners of the gardens as we plotted out our stories, puzzled out our lives, poured out our hearts over various love affairs....

SJD5

SJD6

I suspect if I met that younger self now, I'd be proud of her and embarrassed by her in equal measure. She made a lot of mistakes. But she made some good choices too...particularly in her friendships.

And that's what matters most. That's what lasts. That's what makes everything else possible.

SJD7

SJD8The Peace Fountain is by Greg Wyatt, 1985.


The High Line

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I finally got to see New York's High Line Park, after hearing so much about its creation -- and boy, I sure wasn't disappointed. In the picture above (from the High Line's Picture Gallery ) you can see this remarkable ribbon of urban green-space snaking through the buildings of lower Manhattan, built on the bones of a crumbling elevated railway track that had been slated for demolition.

Untouched for many years, the track had self-seeded and turned into a meadow full of wildflowers and fauna. Two neighborhood activists created the group that lobbied successfully to turn the space into a city park -- choosing a design inspired by its former wild state. (Alas, in order to make the track strong enough to support the park, the soil had to be completely removed, then restored and planted anew. If you want to know what the track used to look like, check out Joe Sternfeld's photographs here.)

March is not the best time to see the High Line, but even with its meadows turned to winter straw, its wildflowers sleeping and  its birch trees bare, it's a beautiful, cleverly rendered space...reminding me a bit of Bordertown in its unusual mix of the urban and the wild. I fell for it hard, envy those who live nearby, and look forward to returning in greener seasons.

HLP 1

HLP 2

HLP 3

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HLP 8

"New York remains what it has always been : a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring - it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence." - Paul Goldberger

HLP 9


New York moments...

Bryant Park Carousel 2

A bunny on the Bryant Park carousel.

Kossuth Memorial

Fresh flowers for a Hungarian hero.

The Flat Iron Building NYC

The Flatiron Building (where I used to work) against a clear blue sky.

Graffiti on the lower west side of NYC

Graffiti art on the lower west side.

The newspaper carrier

A small newspaper carrier on W. 28th Street.

Riverside Dog Park 1

The Riverside dog park. The canine politics involved as dogs enter the park, congregate, play, and leave again are fascinating and hilarious.

Riverside Dog Park 2

Riverside Dog Park 3

Riverside Dog Park 4

"New York is the biggest collection of villages in the world." - Alistair Cooke


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Above: Kate Rusby sings "Cruel," a beautiful Anglo/Scots folksong on the theme of love, exile, and parental perfidy. The performance was filmed in 2008 (and the other musicians are uncredited, alas).

Below: Martin Simpson sings "Never Any Good," a very moving song about his father. Filmed last autumn at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Simpson is backed up here by an all-star cast: Andy Cutting on concertina, Danny Thompson on double bass, and Kate Rusby on vocals. It's a lovely song and a lovely performance.