Encountering Ghosts

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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.

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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.

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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....

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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.

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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.

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"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

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New York moments...

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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.

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

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


Longing for home

Howard & Tilly in Devon, 2012

Sitting here in New York City, missing my home and loved ones back in Devon, I re-visited the poignant "Homesickness" episode of Ellen Kusher's Sound & Spirit radio progam (WGBH/Public Radio International) -- which you can listen to online here.

The following poem by Jane Yolen was inspired by the photograph at the top of this post...although it is, she says, as much about her husband David (who died six years ago), as it is about my photo of Howard and Tilly. Art is like that.


Longing for Home

Longing for Home

I see you from behind,
walking the familiar path,
the twisting, winding road
that goes through the hills,
and long to be going home
to twine you in my arms,
to make a nest in our bed,
to call in the dog from the hearth,
and be there in our home.
The wind is at my back
when I want it in my face.
If I call, will you answer
or just keep walking on?

- Jane Yolen

 

 

"Longing for Home" copyright 2012 by Jane Yolen. The poem appears here with the author's permission, and may not be reproduced in any form without her consent.