On my way home this evening, I read an email from my friend Rachel.  The subject was “Embrace Life.”  In the note, she wrote of a four-year-old girl in her neighborhood who had drowned a couple of days ago.  It reminded her about the fragility of life and how it can be sad and tragic and that we should embrace the moments that we have.

This made me grateful that I left the office at 6pm, an hour that sometimes gives me pause, as if my work isn’t valid unless I’ve put in a 10, 12, 14 hour day.  But the workaholic in me gave way to the enchantment seeker.  I left with a purpose.

I was chasing magic.

This weekend I went to the Conservatory Garden in Central Park for the first time, and I was charmed by it.  Because I went on a weekend, it was full of people and the hubbub of children.  It was a magical place, but I couldn’t drop into the stillness of it as I know I would on a quiet day.

I decided I would go there, hoping to capture a moment of that stillness before the sun set and the garden closed.

When I arrived, I walked through the magic gates—like Disneyland, only with flowers instead of Mickey—and found myself slightly disappointed.  The center garden had been tented over, probably for an upcoming event.  But I wandered and found the gardens to the right and to the left still open.

I sat on a bench under the tree I now think of as the “love tree” (see the previous post), its limbs all twisted and carved up with sweet sentiments, and noticed that the bench also happened to be under a tree of lilacs.  I closed my eyes, feeling the warm-cool air of the springtime evening, and breathed in.  The scent of lilacs is heavenly, alluring, captivating, perfect.  I’ve smelled them before in floral shops, but not like this.  This air was full of sweet lilac magic.

This, I thought, is joy. 

I sat on the bench for a while alternately taking in the beauty around me and closing my eyes meditatively, until, there it was.  Stillness.  I dropped into that feeling that I’d been searching for.

When it was time to go, I hopped on the bus, ready to go home.  As we ran into some traffic, I realized that we were about to go past the arrivals at the Met Ball in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Everyone who is famous in the world of fashion, design and entertainment attends.  It’s the center achievement and excellence.  At least for the night.

I decided to get off the bus and see if I could catch a glimpse of anyone famous. Onlookers screamed every time someone got out of an SUV.

As I watched, all I could think about were the dreams I had for myself when I moved back to New York almost 20 years ago.  I came to the city with big ambitions to be a mover and a shaker.  Of what, I wasn’t really sure.  I just knew I wanted to matter.

This, though fun, was not the dream.

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This was fun and funny and made me laugh.  (And, I got to see Tom Brady and Gisele.  They were…beautiful.)  But I did not come to this city of dreams to gawk from across the street at people who are living their best lives.  I did not come here to play small.  I didn’t come here to stand it the shadows of other people who get the glory and make the money.  I came here to be the woman I always dreamed of being.

I walked away, towards Park Avenue.

This, too, is why I came to New York, though I didn’t know it.  There is unexpected beauty everywhere.

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I walked over another avenue and got on the next bus towards home.  As I sat down, I eyed a woman talking on her cell phone, a little too loudly.  She was talking in that breathless way that people do when they just need to get the words out again and again and again, as if they are running from something.  She was scolding the person on the other end for not recognizing that, though she loves to garden, she’s getting older and, you know, older people have their limitations and should know when they cannot do things anymore.

As the bus made its way downtown, I kept catching a glimpse of the sun setting on the crosstown streets.  Whoa, I thought.  I don’t think I ever have seen a sunset like that.  There were streams of light the color of the lilacs I’d seen earlier, lavender and magenta and blue all blended together, with some peach thrown in for good measure.  It was what I imagine the heavens would look like.  Exquisite, breathtaking and otherworldly.

I kept seeing the sunset and hearing the woman yammering away, saying nothing really, but reveling in the fact that she was saying something, anything to not pay attention.  Every time I saw the sunset, I kept thinking, she’s missing it.  She’s talking and she’s missing it.

But then I would stop listening to her and think, I’m not going to miss it.  Every time the next block opened up, I paid attention.  I took it in.  I allowed myself to feel awed by the beauty, by the sun showing off proudly.

Look at me, she kept saying.  Just look at how beautiful I am.

And that is life.  There is sadness and tragedy, and there is the rest of it.  There is the perfume of flowers that cannot be spritzed on, rather but must be inhaled and experienced. There are dreams, long stowed away in a drawer somewhere, that are worth being brought out to see the daylight again.  They are valid and real and possible, no matter how old you are or how much other people tell you to it’s time to sit down and forget them.  They matter.

That is life.  It is meant to be embraced.

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