Happy Hump Day!
I've been in an inexplicably cheerful mood this week. I think it's the hint of spring that is in the air. It's subtle -- I mean, really, you have to try to find it -- but it's there.
I've recently realized how dreadfully appreciative I am of the little things. As you know, I've had quite a year in the injury department, and on Monday I finally decided to ditch my cane and walk about town with two free hands. Don't get me wrong, the cane was great -- really, it was -- but it was time to say goodbye. I'd done a few test runs in my neighborhood over the weekend and felt satisfied with the result, and so, on Monday morning, as I rushed out the door (late, as always) to catch my far East Side van service, I took a look at my cane and, after a moment of silence and contemplation, decided to let it go. (RIP, dear cane.)
Once downtown, released by my van service on Water Street, I walked the remaining few blocks to my office, taking great pleasure in my newfound freedom and ability to swing my arms about as I walked -- not hobbled, but walked! The sheer joy! And, as I turned from Wall Street to Pine Street to William Street and passed under scaffolding and observed some business travelers milling about the strange hotel where I took GMAT classes just a few years ago, a Strokes song came on my Spotify playlist. And just then, at that moment, I was hit with a gust of brisk air and a wave of those business travelers' cigarette smoke that, together with all those other factors, brought me immediately back to my commute to school when I lived in Paris ten years ago. Not just the romantic Jardin des Tuilleries Paris, but the gritty, oft overlooked, outer edges of Paris that tourists rarely see. And suddenly I was there with my roommate Rebecca on our school-bound half mile trudge to the Gambetta metro stop from our host family's apartment in the faraway 20th Arrondissement (where we were known as "les Americaines" in the internet café and local bar and tabac because we were, in fact, the only Americans in the neighborhood), both of us shuffling in our black Converse, listening to the Strokes on our first generation iPods, complaining about our host mother's odd breakfast rituals (mostly to justify our daily stop at Paul for a Viennoise), and aggressively smoking Gauloise Bleues (when in Paris, do as the French do) in the brisk morning air that was always a little too damp and cold for our liking (because neither one of us had bothered to look up the weather before packing for "spring" in Paris). Little did I know that I would later cherish those long, cold walks so very much and that, on certain spring mornings in New York, with just the right mix of smoke and chill and damp air mixed together, I would remember those Paris days as if they were happening all over again.
On any other morning, I would probably curse the cigarette smoke or the drizzling rain and my failure to remember an umbrella or that it was April and I was still wearing a winter coat, but on Monday morning, the morning when I removed my cane-shaped shackles and strode through the streets like every other hurried person trying to get him- or herself to work in one piece, I was struck with that delightful notion of how great life is, how seemingly mundane things can actually be so special, and how the passage of time is at once so fleeting and so glacial.
As I came to from this fabulous memory and moment, I glanced up and saw that I was entering one of my favorite spaces downtown -- Chase Plaza -- which was closed for years (first for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and then for construction). Why is this a favorite space? Who knows. For one, it's a nice shortcut. For another, it has interesting art, like Isamu Noguchi's Sunken Garden and a sculpture by Jean Dubuffet (pictured above). And for another, I have always had a thing for carved-out public space. Whenever I cross into and through Chase Plaza (which I believe has now been renamed Rockefeller Plaza?), I appreciate how the space is both enduring (as it was thankfully landmarked in 2008) and incredibly temporal. It is not a destination, but a passageway. I think of the people who have traversed the space in the past, those that do now and those that will in the future, and I am moved by the massiveness of the space, the emptiness that immediately surrounds me (because it's never terribly crowded -- a novelty in this city), the sky overhead and the imposing buildings that loom all around just far enough away to let me breath a cleansing sigh as I either begin or end my work day. It is the kind of space that you don't realize you appreciate so very much until you no longer have access to it, and when you are once again able to traverse the space and be in it and feel that simultaneous sensation of heaviness and lightness, you look up at the sky, drizzle and all, you take in a deep, clean breath of chilly April air, and you say thank you for all things great and small.
Never did I think I would be writing about the beauty of a morning commute, but there is a first for everything. There can be such beauty in the mundane. And isn't that what life is all about? After all, it's often the little things that can have the biggest impact on us over time, that quietly stay with us as happy reminders of what once was and still remains somewhere deep within, that make life and the world around us so incredibly wonderful.
Happy commuting, happy remembering and happy appreciating the little things!
I am an artist/designer and former financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and my two boys Michael and Theo and spend much of my free time dreaming about how to enhance the aesthetics of our little world. I am endlessly inspired and always in search of something new. This is a blog about my search, my inspiration and things I just really, really like or want.