I had always wanted to spend time in New York. It was one of those “must go to” places that I had stored away for one day. There are landmarks there that are familiar to me as if I had been there already: Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Times Square and more recently Ground Zero. The idea of a week in this city appealed enormously. In my head, I had decided that I would love to stay in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan.
I have just spent a week in New York. We stayed in Brooklyn. I visited all those places and then did more –
I walked across Brooklyn Bridge, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Museum.
We queued at Times Square and went to see Jersey Boys. I went to church at Redeemer. I got to hear Tim Keller preach. We walked on the High Line that passes through Chelsea. We managed to see President Obama. I did all this with my husband Keith.
We had seven days of clear blue skies and hot temperatures. It was amazing, it was awesome but it was also overwhelming and exhausting. We were in New York when a bomb exploded in Chelsea a day after we had passed through this neighborhood. We awoke to numerous texts from family and friends asking if we were ok. We were ok, but it shook us.
This is not a city to visit if you don’t feel strong. A week earlier, I had broken my toe, making walking difficult and painful. You need to be able to walk when in New York. We had to walk and walk and walk and I didn’t feel strong at all. I craved open space, open horizons and silence. Mostly, I craved a quiet seat where I could sit and stop.
I found it crowded, busy, noisy and utterly perplexing. Traveling by subway confused us. We would emerge like scared rabbits up into Manhattan, never completely sure if we were at the right place and then struggle to find the right entrance to take us back in the right direction. Uptown, midtown, downtown are meaningless until you are familiar with this place. The C line has more than one number and if you get on the wrong number you go to the wrong place.
Walking the streets of Manhattan sounds like fun. But it takes forever to get nowhere and the island is enormous and goes on and on. There are traffic lights at every intersection, so it is stop start for cars and pedestrians and we were never confident to ignore the red stop signals like other pedestrians as the cars drove in the opposite direction. There are so many high rise buildings that it is hard to get a sense of perspective or space and I felt like I would suffocate as I walked up Fifth Avenue or Seventh Avenue hoping to reach Central Park.
Almost every iconic building is tall, majestic and glorious. You have to look up. It is a bit like being surrounded by man-made idols that say “Look at Me! I am invincible!” 9/11 changed that and the twin towers that were supposedly indestructible fell and disintegrated into nothing. While at the Ground Zero Memorial, listening to a fireman speak about that terrible day, he recounted how he couldn’t believe that everything from both towers turned to dust – no desks, tables, computers, debris, simply a pile of dust.
I read this verse from Proverbs while in New York and found it comforting:
“Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:2
While in this city, it is easy to think that it is the rich, the powerful, the young and energetic who have it all. But you will also find the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable, the homeless, the elderly in this city. You see them in Central Park. You will see them in the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. The homeless and the trader play ping pong together. The sprawl out in the sunshine on the same grass. They sit at the same long tables and read books.
Whether rich or poor, He is our Maker, He is our Lord. This prayer of praise captures this truth succinctly:
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks and praise Your glorious name.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-13
Oh Sarah, I feel your bewilderment & fragility! I would love to go to New York to see those familiar places but have felt too intimidated by the pace & intensity of the place. I don’t think I could cope being in a city that never closes down, like a modern Babel. It sounds like it’s been a rather confronting experience.
Yes, Alison, that is a good word to use for it. But we are so very glad we went.