This trip to New York felt cosmic. So little happened and yet so much. I walked and walked. I met up with old friends, sometimes for less than an hour, but we shared space together and that can make all the difference.
At times, frustrated by how long it takes to get anywhere in the city, upset to have missed the class I was going to visit at Cooper Union, disappointed to not make a yoga class, I’d think, “Why am I here? I could be at home getting my job done, doing the laundry, picking up the kids.” But if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have met the woman next to me on the plane who was trying to get to her father’s wake. She was nervous – she’d never been on a plane and she’d left without telling her immediate family as there had been a rift and her birth father was not liked. She grew more worried as our flight was delayed hour by hour that she wouldn’t see her dad before he was buried the next morning. When I’d helped to pass her crutch to the stewardess before takeoff, she’d told me she’d had polio; “I use the crutch and a brace.” And when I helped her to retrieve it after landing, its heft sat in my hands, an object for reflection. I was there to feel that weight.
If I hadn’t gone to New York I wouldn’t have walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on a foggy Thursday morning and heard a man plead for tissues; “My finger is cut, it’s falling off!” He implored for help several times before I turned and saw him holding two giant plastic bags filled with cans and bottles, a bleeding finger held aloft. “I’m sorry; I don’t have anything,” was all I could offer, but he thanked me for at least acknowledging him. I walked on and then remembered packing my bag two nights before – hadn’t there been a Bandaid, or was I remembering the ones that had flown down the mountain in the book I’d read on the plane? I stopped right in the middle of the footpath hoping that one of the bikes I’d seen nearly take out a young girl at the other end of the bridge wouldn’t bowl me over. But there was nowhere else, so I knelt and searched. Amazingly, there was not just one but three of them. I rushed back against the walkers and bikers coming at me and finally saw the man. “Here! Bandaids.” He took them, muttered thank you, and then brought his hands to his eyes and began to weep. I was here to witness him.
If I hadn’t gone to New York I wouldn’t have found myself again at the Tibetan shop on McDougal just off of Washington Square. I have been there maybe 8 times – sometimes on purpose but mainly on accident. It is a place that seems to just appear with each visit. I entered the tiny slip of a shop this time looking for a hat for Bella to replace the one I’d bought there three years ago and which had been lost. No hats. I talked to the woman working there who appeared to be Tibetan and told her about the hat, about returning, about how much I loved the shop. When I admired a lotus flower necklace she offered it to me. I’m sure I looked at her with amazement; “But why?” “Because you keep coming back,” she said simply. I was there to receive.
An hour later I found myself on the Highline, looking down at a block in Chelsea with a sudden realization that I’d stood there five years earlier with a band of people. I’d been asked to be the writer on an exhibit in a museum, and we’d met there to review the space. The plans, already big, had grown more lofty during our two hour walk-through of the space – we’d bring in grass, there would be enormous portrait photographs, perhaps I’d travel to Africa to interview people, someone would make a soundtrack. Within months the project had fizzled. As I looked down at the space, I was exchanging text messages with a newly made friend from another collaborative project; we were comparing notes on the surreal crash and burn of our own recent exercise in group creativity. I suddenly saw the correlations between the two projects. I was here to connect the dots, to learn.
And if I hadn’t gone to New York, I wouldn’t have sat next to my yoga soul sister listening to Krishna Das. As his voice and the chants saturated me and the humbleness of the church, which had Jewish prayer shawls downstairs and rainbow banners of acceptance strewn from its front steps, seeped into me, I thought, “This is why I’m here.” Love was the message. Serving others. Staying connected to a person who had been with me at one of the most transformational times in my life. This – all of this – was why I had come to New York.