The Spiritual Path

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I walked at the Stormont Estate in Belfast. Very pretty.

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.

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This is a path Dan Wakefield and I walked at the Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat in Pennsylvania.

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. 

Jury Duty

Although I cannot discuss the criminal trial I am being considered for, I can disclose what happened in the hallway.

Apparently, a very large light-skinned bald man (Large Man) ran out of his courtroom and ran towards the elevator bank and a set of open windows.

We were on the 13th floor. (The building does not have a 12th floor, but has a 13th floor? What?)

Earlier, I had been talking to Juliana on the phone from that very windowsill. I had been sitting, taking notes when a glamorous cop told me, shaking her head, “Do not sit on the windowsill.” I complied.

I swear. At that time, I had thought, someone could so easily jump out these windows.

And that, I believe, was the Large Man’s intent. I did not see him run, pursued by cops. I was in a nearby stairwell, (again, on the phone). We were on break from this loooooong jury selection process.

But I did hear and see a cop came running down the stairs next to me. I followed him. There was some police action right in the hallway.

Another juror told me that she saw it all — the Large Man, hand-cuffed, running down the hall with several cops in pursuit. When he climbed up on the windowsill, they pulled him down. I did hear the thump on the marble when the Large Man hit the marble floor.

The Large Man started screaming. Another cop told me later that the Large Man was screaming to get his handcuffs off, but the court officers could not comply. (My fellow juror told me he wore two sets of handcuffs.) Another officer shoo-ed us out of eye shot. But later, he told us, it was for our own protection, and not because Large Man was being hurt.

All 50 or so of us jurors looked at each other, slightly worried, eyeing the elevator bank, where all this commotion was happening, until they wheeled the Large Man on a stretcher out through the service elevator.

I said to my fellow juror, “That must’ve been traumatic to see him up on the windowsill, wanting to jump.”

She said, “Didn’t see much. I got out of the way in case the cops had to shoot him.”

I know I mostly blog about how much I love NYC and how beautiful and safe NYC is. And you can see from my photos of trees, flowers, picnics, museums, and Broadway shows, it’s true. But I guess I must admit there is a seamy side to the city. Fortunately, I only see this side every four years when I serve my stint on jury duty.

This was the surreptitious photo I took of the incident — after the cops told us, basically, ‘Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.’ And this incident is why jury service at the criminal courts in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart.

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Snow Day in Riverside Park

Sometimes words simply will not do. So I will show you some pics of today in Riverside Park and Riverside Drive. My Upper West Side was blanketed in snow.

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5 Things on a Deserted Island

My five favorite things are:

  1. coffee
  2. my journal
  3. my bike
  4. my iphone
  5. books (on kindle or paperbound)

But if I had to live on an deserted island, I know I’d have to take one more thing — sunscreen. Because my dermatologist would yell at me more than she already does if I showed up at my twice-yearly appointment with even more sunspots.

In terms of non-things on my island, (in addition to my immediate family, of course), I’d also want to take my book club and my writing class because we never seem to run out of things to say about what we write or read.

I’d also like to take Manhattan to my desert island because it is a treasure trove of beauty, especially on a foggy day like today.

Man, today was bea-ut-i-ful — so perfect for a bike ride through Central Park. Scroll down for a few more pics.

On a writerly note, I was going to post a memoir piece about my Norwegian grandmother that I wrote in the my Monday night writing group, but suddenly it felt too personal. Any way, come to a writing workshop if you want more personal writing. Check out the workshops at: http://www.bootcamp4writers.com/

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Central Park leaves
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This whimsical art installation of Eight Giant Red Snails from the Galleria Ca ‘d’Oro and Villa Firenze Foundation as part of the REgeneration Art Project.
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Any place more beautiful than Central Park on a foggy day? I don’t think so.
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He da man, Shakespeare in the Park

Stay Away from Gravity

So, this morning, this happened.

It was 8 am and I was walking around the block after walking my kids to their school bus stop. I noticed this piece of edifice on the sidewalk. I looked up wondering where it fell from. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I found the niche.

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So I called 311. (I did not call 911). While I was getting transferred to the building department, busybody that I am, I pointed out the brick-like piece of architecture to every dogwalker and child walker who passed.

“Look at this piece of architecture! It came from that building right there.” I was not put on hold for long. I gave the address to the building agency (grateful that our city infrastructure was intact — that the government shut down did not reduce the response time.)

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Officer Iosilevich came knocking at my door. See, my doorman, who had been tipped off by my neighbor, pointed out that I was the complainant in this edifice-falling potential disaster. I remind you. I dialed 311 — not 911. (I love 311, the city’s hotline number.)20131007-085926.jpg

This was the fallen cornice — as big as a brick. You can see the impact on the sidewalk. Within 30 minutes of my call, I got that knock on the door. I discovered that four firetrucks and two cop cars had responded. 20131007-090031.jpg

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Officer Iosilevich told me it was a good thing that I called. I wondered if the building owners would be fined or required to make their building safe.

I went back home. It wasn’t even 9 am and I had begun my job, saving the city, one complaint at a time.

Incidentally, at lunch time, I headed down to 57th Street to the Carnegie Hall block where I was going to see the movie Gravity at the Director’s Guild. But the street was closed due to a wobbly crane atop a building. I could not get down the block to see the movie Gravity, but I appreciate the gravity of gravity.

The Road Less Traveled

No one knows this about me. But when I was an assistant editor in the biz school at Pace University, I thought for a day or two about going into nursing.

I was in grad school for literature at NYU at the time. I had tuition remission at NYU through my then-husband, but I could also get tuition remission at Pace. I debated about applying to Pace law school, but the campus was in Pleasantville or Westchester somewhere. That seemed like such a trek from my natural habitat of downtown Manhattan!

So I thought about nursing. I’d heard there were a lot of jobs. Besides, I had loved being a candy striper when I was a teenager.

"Acrobat in the Ring", sculpture by ...
I have always loved this sculpture, “Acrobat in the Ring.” by Chaim Gross at the Pace University, New York City Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing — I’m not cut out for it.

When my kids throw up, I gag, shudder and turn away. When they bleed, I feel woozy. And when they hallucinate with a fever, I find their hallucinations extremely funny and can’t stop giggling.

I don’t know how doctors and nurses do it — I guess they learn to control these impulses. Maybe I, too, could stifle my gag or my giggle.

So instead of pursuing law or nursing, (real practical skill-type jobs!) I took grad psych classes in critical thinking at Pace in the Straus Leaning and Thinking Center with Dr. Rachel Lauer.

The program blew my mind. I learned so much about learning. For ex., I first learned the word, meta. I learned about methods of thought, rhetoric, kinds of intelligence, and philosophy. I’m richer for it.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had pursued nursing or law,  instead of writing and teaching.

The Road Less Traveled – The Daily Prompt

What  jobs did you fantasize about? Why didn’t you go down that road?

In our Boot Camp For Writers’ workshops, we offer a writing prompt on the road less traveled.

A Play Celebrates Diversity in Jackson Heights

On a dreary cold afternoon in Manhattan, I took my two 13-year old daughters to see a sparkly, “You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase,” a magical play by a team of writers about a place in the world that is the exact opposite of the place where I grew up.

Way back when Hillary Clinton was running for president, the cover of the New York Times ran an article about Ms. Clinton’s (and my) hometown that began with a phrase, something like, “In the lily whitest of Chicago suburbs, Park Ridge, Illinois…”

We did not have diversity in Park Ridge or in our class of about 800 at Maine South High School. The one African American kid was actually African, an exchange student from Kenya. There was one Jewish family.

No wonder I love diversity. I love it beyond words can explain. And I love that this play loves diversity.

“I think I now know about 20 different ways of saying, “I’m looking for a beautiful woman new to the city,” says Joe, one of the dozen characters who wander on the stage on a quest. He is looking for the owner of the suitcase.

This play, “You Are Now the Owner …” is the middle play of the Jackson Heights trilogy, a microscope on diversity and a kaleidoscope of racial and ethnic community.

This is magical realism with a contemporary ‘tude.

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A magic cell phone and a diverse community that looks out for each other. (photo by Joel Weber, courtesy of “You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase.”)

Characters jump from a storybook.  A cell phone turns into a girl.

With so many storylines, I lost the thread of plot at times, but I was just happy to be with my girls and to be transported, taking a trip, like that suitcase.

Here’s some poetry from the play:

ROSA: As a rose petal falls and the rain feeds the underground, my love will remain true to the one that grants me my soul through and through.

TOMÁS: That makes you guys soul mates. Ah that’s nice.

They make their way to the book. ROSA crawls in. TOMÁS looks around.

TOMÁS: Man, this place may not be a fairy tale. But love does live here.

There's action in magical realism. (photo by Joel Weber, courtesy of "You Are Now..." )
There’s action in magical realism. (photo by Joel Weber, courtesy of “You Are Now…” )

The play is a multi-culti mish mosh, just like the borough. Just like New York City.

My favorite character was Salim, the fast-talking cell phone salesman. His shop seemed to be the hub upon which the whole world spun.

One of my daughters said, about the play, “It was abstract and beautiful.”

The other said, “It was a mystery.”

I said, “The play celebrated diversity.”  Like David Dinkins always said, “New York City is a beautiful mosaic.” And so was this play.

Thanks culture mom media for the tickets! (My thoughts are always my own!)

“You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase,” was conceived by Ari Laura Kreith and written by Mando Alvarado, Jenny Lyn Bader, Barbara Cassidy, Les Hunter, Joy Tomasko, Gary Winter, Stefanie Zadravec.

I think the show has closed now, but like a suitcase in your closet, I hope it opens again soon and transports you somewhere warm and diverse and teeming with interesting and eccentric characters to enchant you.

After all, this is spring break! You deserve such a nice break.