There is nothing like a picnic in Riverside Park. The green on an early July evening. Central Park is for tourists, but Riverside is for New Yorkers.
For 20 years, my backyard has been the grassy slope in Riverside Park. We used to spend endless hours in the Elephant Playground. Then, the path between 79th and 96th, riding our bikes around that loop and taking in the garden near the Hippo Playground.
Although our recreation spots have changed, our picnicking spot has not. This field.
The girls are at camp. I miss them, but I console myself with friends and family. And picnics in the park.
On a beautiful warm night towards the end of October, what is more fun than citibiking it over to the theater for some Shear Madness. Tonite was the first preview but the cast had the slamming doors and silly business down pat. The small ensemble was perfect. I found myself laughing out loud when I should’ve been groaning.
The script had a ton of contemporary references (Hillary’s emails and the Mets win!) But the cast never stumbled. Sure, they stuttered. But they were guilty – or were they? You decide! That’s the fun of this production. It’s a beauty shop whodunnit with the audience asking questions of the cast and deciding the identity of the killer.
Funnily enough, I was sure I’d seen this show before — a million years ago in New York, but I was told that it’s only been performed in D.C. and Boston. Maybe I dreamed it. Or maybe tonite’s play was a dream too — A Mid-Autumn’s Night Dream.
Thanks to the people of Serino/Coyne and Shear Madness who gave me the ticket and a sip of champagne. But that did not impair my judgment. I still know who did it! And if you go, you’ll know too. But you might have a different take. Go see it, then tell me who you and your fellow audience picks as the killer.
Only the hairdresser knows for sure. But which hairdresser?
At the airport gate, I chatted with an older woman who had just walked the Camino in Spain. I’m not really sure where the Camino is. I’m too jetlagged from my Ireland trip to google it. But I think it’s a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of some beloved saint.
The 70ish woman carried only a small backpack. Her feet were tired she said but her boots were sturdy. She lifted a boot to show me.
“Nice,” I said although they were just plain old hiking shoes, not attractive at all. I guess hiking boots are not supposed to be attractive. “They look functional.”
“Some people do hike the Camino in sneakers, but I think you need these.”
“I am going to do that – a spiritual journey,” I nodded.
“Any walk can be a spiritual walk,” she said. “Like you told me you’re from New York. You could walk the Hudson River?”
“Really?” I said. “What’s spiritual about the Hudson?”
“I don’t know. Maybe do Vermont then,” she said.
I am attracted to the idea of long walks like the Camino, wherever that is, or the Appalachian Trail. Yes, the AT’s cool. You start in the spring in the south and end in the fall in New England. But do you sleep in a cozy bed? I don’t think so. I love a bed and breakfast where someone – not me – makes me coffee.
Maybe I should consider the wise woman’s advice and see the Hudson as a spiritual path. I could blog about it. I might call the new blog, Hiking the Hudson, A Spiritual Journey. Oh, I like the sound of that. The Hudson is beautiful in the fall. Maybe I’ll do the hike this fall when my darlings go back to school.
Wait. The Hudson is too ordinary. I want to do an extraordinary hike — Mount Kilimanjaro or K2 — a climb that will make me famous. Or at least make me feel alive. I might encounter rattlesnakes, freeze to death, stare down a wild boar. But will I sleep in a soft place? I don’t think so. Maybe I should stick with the Hudson and then I can head home every night to my cozy bed on the Upper West Side.
Maybe every walk can be a spiritual walk, just like the elder pilgrim said. Every journey can spark lofty thoughts, philosophical ponderings and celebrations of God.
I believe God is found in nature and in chance encounters on the daily journey. Maybe God even resides in the ordinary river that I pass every day.
Maybe I don’t have to make a pilgrimage to some distant land and blog about it to find my spiritual path.
I wrote this post at the Ecumenical Library lunchtime writing group at the Interchurch Center led by Tracey Del Duca. The next God Box writing group meets on Aug. 10 and 24.
Give yourself away. I’ve been thinking about the freedom of having less and doing more. When Cate came back from kayaking in Alaska, she said she had very little — like two changes of lightweight clothes, but that she was given so much — whales breaching, bears lumbering, sea otters playing. If you have a lot, give it away, and you will have more. But it will be given to you in experiences, not things.
Any way, this is my hope for my summer decluttering journey. I want to give it all away. You can’t take your stuff and your bank account to the grave. You can’t take anything. So make memories.
Yesterday, I intentionally dialed down my social media use. And I’ve planned a few days in the next month when I can be off the grid.
New York City is a perfect place to immerse yourself in experiences. My nephew’s visiting from Chicago-land. We started at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ended up across the Brooklyn Bridge. We passed through Chelsea, the Village, SoHo, Chinatown, the Courts.
We hopped on bikes and rode. We used Citibikes. I have a yearly pass, but I purchased a daily pass for the boys. You get the bikes for increments of 30 minutes in the one-day pass (45 minutes in the yearly pass.) When you stop, you can slam them into the stand and walk away.
Citibike is coming north to the Upper West Side, I hope, this summer.
We ended our 4th of July on the West side, too wiped out to head East and South for the fireworks. But we saw fireworks at the end of the path and across the Hudson in New Jersey. It was quiet.
And getting quiet, turning off the chatter, was pretty nice.
Last year I pretended I was going to Dublin as I celebrated Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar Association in Lower Manhattan. But this summer I really am going to Dublin for the Dublin Writers Retreat (Join me!)
Just goes to show that sometimes you dream on your blog and your bloggy dreams come true.
I am going to dream (and hoist a few) at this year’s Bloomsday celebration again and see what dreams may come. (Join me!)
Let me remind those of you who were not English majors and who do not live with your noses in books: Bloomsday is celebrated June 16th, chronicling one typical, working class day in Dublin, 1904.
Joyce found the extraordinary in the ordinary. But I don’t think he did meant to write some exotic literary masterpiece. He meant to recreate a city’s ebb and flow. And now, every year on June 16th, dozens of places in the world read or enact or discuss or celebrate this literary day. And I am one of them.
I find that Bloomsday is a more authentic holiday for the Irish and the Irish American diaspora than St. Patrick’s Day.
In the US, the book is also one reason we do not censor. It had been banned until 1933 because it was deemed obscene and pornographic. Judge John Woolsey lifted the ban, writing:
“In writing ‘Ulysses’ Joyce sought to make a serious experiment in a new if not wholly novel literary genre.
“Joyce has attempted- it seems to me with astonishing success- to show how the screen of the consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries as it were on a plastic palimpsest not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious.
“The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men, and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe.
“If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one’s own choice.”
So, zoom back in your consciousness, people, to present-day Ireland.
Who are ‘such folks’? A minute ago, ‘such folks’ were marginalized. But today, isn’t Joyce rolling in his grave? Don’t you wish that Oscar Wilde could somehow know that Ireland is accepting of homosexuals — the first country to legalize same-sex marriage? Whoah! I am even more ecstatic to visit Ireland now. For a spirit of openness and tolerance and — dare I say — love for people is blowing! And this can only be good.
In other news, our vice president’s 46-year old son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer on May 30. And this reminds me: gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Life is short. So short. Too short.
Celebrate Bloomsday. Celebrate every stupid, ordinary day! For in the ordinary, there is magic.
I will be at the Irish American Bar Association of New York’s Bloomsday celebration, pontificating on the beauty and wonders of the ordinary. Join me.
At the end of the day at my coworking community, New Work City, occasionally, we’d get jello shots delivered to our work stations. Now I get chocolate chicken chip cookies and hot chocolate. My career has shifted from corporate-y to entrepreneurial to teaching.
And the river runs through it.
I started writing this blog post on Pajama Day last week. Yes, I got up and changed out of one pair of PJs and put on another pair. Working in a classroom is so way better than working in a cubicle. If only for pajama day. (At New Work City, I could’ve worn PJs, I’m sure; but not at GBGM.)
I asked my husband last night, “Do you think I’ll ever want to go back to corporate-y or non-profit work?”
“No,” he paused, then added, “But you did love your office.”
Ah, gone are the days of having a beautiful office on the 14th floor overlooking Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church. With a big desk (containing a drawer full of shoes) and an expansive view of George Washington Bridge spanning the beautiful Hudson River…Those were the days… (Here, I enter a reverie state…..)
Ahem. Back to reality. From my shared Green Room drama classroom space at the school, I have a drawer in a desk. And still, to be sure, a view of the Hudson River — this time from the first floor.
Between the school buildings and the river, the children run, play, scream. I love the outdoor space of the country school. I love that the kids breathe in cold air between classes. Fresh air is enlivening. I love running outside myself between classes. Hugging my heavy sweater tightly around me.
And all along my pathways, the Hudson River is my guardian angel. Watching over. Gliding beside. Big-shouldered and steady. Freezing over and then, thawing.
I do believe the big floats of ice will melt. Our parkas will be replaced by sweaters. And we’ll see the muddy ground.
First crocus. Then daffodil. Raises her hand. And asks, “Is it my turn?”
Spring asks Winter, “Isn’t it my turn soon?”
“Can I go now?” Spring asks. And then, Winter takes a sabbatical.
Saw tit mice, blue jays, cardinals, nut hatches, woodpeckers, maybe a goldfinch. Of course, pigeons, sparrows, grackle.
Love the elegance of the Bow Bridge. And the turn of this cardinal’s head. “You lookin’ at me?”
No one is lounging on the bench. But a pigeon flew into my frame.
Is the San Remo the most beautiful apartment building in the world? I think so.
And when I walk into the park around Strawberry Field, it is like walking into church. I question faith and death and life’s uncertainties. And there’s always some dude strumming John Lennon, even in the cold.
In the summer, you don’t notice Central Park South in the Park because of all the foliage.
And you may not notice all the birds either.
I went birding with this hearty crew. We dubbed ourselves Charlie’s Angels. If you know Charles (Chessler), you know he has a great zest for life.
He invited us birding through a Facebook post.
I asked Charles how he stays so friendly. Like, during his winter street fair experience – he was selling his work in December. He said he talks with people “without agenda, expectation, or judgment.” Pretty cool. I aim to do that too.
And yay, it was pretty cold today too! I’ve been warming my hands against the heater all day.
Incidentally, I took all of these pics with my new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. (I did not use filter, or edit any of these pics!)