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New York City is poetry to me, for so many reasons.  In the midst of the constant whir of activity, random signs are found, if you pay attention.  Some people call them graffiti or street art, but I call them signs, including signs of love….

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…and signs of magic.

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Every now and then, you can also see inspired bits of poetry.  And like many poems I’m still thinking about what this one means.  But I instinctively felt the sentiment of this was so beautiful, I actually gasped.

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I am the beat of a thousand purple butterflies.  

If you pay attention, poetry may unfold right in front of you.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I am not a morning person.

But a combination of early workouts and sporadic insomnia mean I am often up at the first peek of dawn, literally.  I have come to love the peace of the early morning and its quiet stillness.  You can feel the happiness—contentment, I guess is a better word—within reach this early.  Especially in New York City, where noise is in ever fiber of this town.

The beauty of the early hours is you are not in the company of anyone who doesn’t actually want to be there.  It’s you and the dogs out for their walk and the pigeons in search of food and the small children who understand daylight is where the fun happens.  Morning means peace, before the worry starts to kick in.

There is an August ritual in New York City called Summer Streets, where a long stretch of Park Avenue is closed off to traffic in the morning on three consecutive Saturdays. New Yorkers take full advantage of this, descending on the streets to roam, ride bikes, jog, and take part in activities the city has installed along the way. It’s a fun mix of energy, laughter and giddiness.

But I wanted to know what it was like before everyone showed up.

It was heaven.

Grand Central Terminal, as we never get to see it.  This road is closed to pedestrians normally, so to approach the front of the building is to see a work of beauty.  Except for a few bikers and joggers, I was blessed with empty, peaceful stretches of city and up close views of this landmark.

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May you know stretches of peace and roads leading to possibility throughout the coming week.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

 

When the summer holidays hit New York City, all of the locals head out of town.

This is when I love my city most.

It’s these weekends where the pace slows down and I can more fully experience what I love about New York.  I can wander through less crowded streets, sidle up to the bar of normally packed restaurants, read outside in my less crowded neighborhood park.

And there’s time to meander through favorite through museums.  I went to the Whitney Museum – one of my favorites in the city – to check out their Biennial exhibit before it closed.

One piece in particular, called Let The Dream Write Itself by Lisa Anne Auerbach, caught my attention.  First, it was made of wool, which is not the usual medium for art found in a museum.  Then, there were sayings on it that rang true to me.  Art should make you think, and it should make you feel. Both happened when I looked at this.

And, I just thought it was cool.

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Yes.

I also love hearing from my friends about their holidays.  In our area, we’ve had the kinds of heavy rainstorms that come with spring, but there is always something beautiful to see afterwards – the glisten of raindrops on flowers, the green hue of tree leaves that seem so much brighter than before, the crystal blue skies that evoke hope.

My friend Sandy sent me this photograph she took on Long Island Sound after one of these storms.

Double Rainbow on Long Island Sound

I like to remember that on the other side of gray storms in our lives, there is often a beautiful, heavenly burst of color.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Last night in a taxi, I looked out the window and took in all of the beauty in New York City.  The full moon that hovered over the wintry city made me gasp, quite literally taking my breath away.

It reminded me of how the moon charmed me a few days earlier in Bryant Park, of how lucky I’d felt all week to stumble on beauty no matter my mood. I thought about the words of wisdom a friend gave me when I first moved to New York.

Remember to look up.  That’s where all the beauty is.

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A few days later after an early morning workout, I witnessed the streets of Manhattan being bathed in the glow of a sunrise.

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Of course, sometimes you need to look down, too.  Surprises are on the sidewalk as well.

Sidewalk Heart

Signs of love – and beauty – are everywhere.  Look up.  Look down.  Look all around.

xo, with goodness and grace

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk, overwhelmed and exhausted, when the email popped up.  The subject was, “Busy today???”

It was my friend Judy.  I’ve known her for nine years, since she filled in as a temp in my office.  At the time she was fresh out of college, her spirit enthusiastic and infectious.

I clicked open the email.

“Want to go find Banksy????”

Banksy is a famous graffiti street artist—identity unknown—who has taken residence in New York for the month of October.  I’ve been following him on Instagram, and I get a little giddy whenever he posts his latest work of street art.

But by the time Judy’s email made its way into my inbox, I was tired.  Besides, I’d already RSVP’d to attend a party for a friend’s store opening that evening.  Because I like to keep my word, I only planned to stop by, say hello, and then go home and go to bed.

Instead, I spontaneously and enthusiastically said yes. I rationalized that I could stop by the party once we saw the art.

As I made my way down to Tribeca, the breezy city air gently cupped my face, and I felt freed from my daily routine.

I arrived before she did.  There was a small crowd gathered, quietly taking pictures, with an almost reverential hush in the air.

The art was a diminutive, but moving, tribute to the old World Trade Center towers. An orange flower was place strategically where the airplane hit on that fateful day in 2001.

Banksy Tribeca

We took our pictures and then left the scene, feeling happy that we’d seen a hidden gem.

Judy turned to me and said that her friend told her about a similar piece of art that had popped up in Brooklyn.  It was suspected to be a Banksy as well, but it hadn’t been confirmed.

“Let’s go see it.”  I said it with such certainty I surprised myself.

“Really?”

So we hopped on the subway and went to Brooklyn.

We walked through the streets to the upper level of the Brooklyn Promenade, where I’d never been.  Even in the dark of the evening, it was charming.  Easily, we found the tiny mural alongside a wall, painted directly in front of the skyline where the towers once stood.

Banksy Brooklyn

I felt oddly happy.  Two friends enjoying each other’s company in the cool fall air, with a backdrop of quiet that I rarely know in my city.  We laughed at our spontaneity, rare in our worlds of deadlines and challenging clients.

“YOLO!” Judy exclaimed.  It made me laugh.  You only live once, indeed.

Sitting down on a park bench, just talking, we looked out at the beautiful Manhattan skyline.

I knew I would miss the party.

I looked up at the sky, the stars visible in between the billowy clouds and the moon high above us.  I closed my eyes and I inhaled.

As I exhaled, I said, “Let’s remember tonight and how lucky we are.”

She giggled.  “Yes.  Let’s.”

Sometimes there are events that thrust you into a new way of being, that shake you to your core, that move you out of one state of mind and into another.

For me, it all started with the steam pipe explosion.

I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was about to leave the office, but I’d sat down to talk to my friend Jen as sometimes I did before I left. This was during my workaholic phase, before I’d officially recognized that there was more to life than work. We’d worked many late nights, and we would order dinner and commiserate about what had gone on that day. Sometimes I would lament  the fact that I had to cancel yet another dinner plan because I had to finish something at work.

On this particular day, I was getting myself out of the office at a reasonable hour. I’d shut down my computer and had my favorite Kate Spade red and pink striped satchel in hand, ready to walk out the door. But on my way out, I started a conversation and sat down on a chair just outside of Jen’s cubicle, and we began to chit chat about whatever we needed to talk about at the end of that day.

Later, Jen would tell me that she knew something was wrong just by the look on my face.

I remember it had rained heavily earlier on that steamy July morning, the kind of rain that seems as if it will never end.  The kind that feels like thick bands of water are shooting down as if there was a leak in the sky.  The kind feels abnormal somehow. But then it stopped and the sun came out and life went on as it normally does.

We heard a loud noise outside, which at first sounded like thunder, though the sound went on longer than thunder normally does. It wasn’t immediately alarming, because of the heavy thunderstorm earlier. But I was facing the window, and suddenly I saw a massive plume of smoke billow upward from the street below.

At that moment—and for the people who were not near a window, I still don’t know how they knew to move—everyone ran for the exit.

This being New York, where no matter how far we are from September 11, 2001 it still remains in the collective consciousness of every day, so that was the thing that instantly sprang to mind. Some act of terror must have occurred at Grand Central Station, just across the street from our office.

We ran down 10 flights of stairs, hysterically at first. Some people were literally pushed down the stairs, and then we all realized that if we had any chance of getting out of the building we needed to take care of each other. We began to move in orderly, but speedy fashion.

As we got to the bottom of the stairs, someone shouted, “The doors won’t open!”

You don’t know panic until you’ve heard that.

My friend Judy turned to me and begged to use my cell phone so she could call her boyfriend. “No, no, no,” I remember saying. “We aren’t doing that. We’re going to focus on getting out of here.”

I momentarily wondered if that made me a bad person and if I would later regret my words.

Thankfully after finding another exit, there was a set of doors that did open. Jen, Judy and I reached it at the same time. Unexpectedly, and completely out of character, I had a paralyzing moment of fear of what was outside. “I don’t know what to do,” I said. Suddenly I wasn’t sure if we were safer inside or outside. Jen took a beat and then said, “Just go!”

I cannot remember details of what the street looked like when we finally emerged, except for the thought that it looked like the aftermath of an incident in a war zone.  We later learned that there was not an act of terror; there had been a steam pipe explosion across the street from our office building, probably triggered by the heavy rain earlier in the day.

It didn’t lessen the intensity of what we’d just been through.

I look back on that experience and marvel at how this one event changed me. I was changed in ways that were uncomfortable and life altering.

Loud noises began to unsettle me, where they hadn’t bothered me before.  I met a friend for breakfast the next morning, and the fire alarm went off in the restaurant. No one moved or seemed concerned, which I found disconcerting. My friend showed up a few minutes after I got settled, complained about our table and had us moved. Then she grew annoyed because her coffee hadn’t come fast enough.

I sat there, trying to act normal though it felt like my frayed nerves were hanging out of my body, while I wondered if I should keep this person in my life.

Trauma brought me a startling and heightened clarity to what was important.

I also had far less tolerance for unkindness and rudeness. I became impatient with other people’s impatience and with their hysterical need for everything to be done immediately, particularly at work. It was a major catalyst that led me leave that job a few months later for one that afforded me a better quality of life, though I still struggled (and continue to, even now) over how to let work go once I left the office for the day.

At the same time, it was the beginning of a series of events that would shape my adult life, many that I still feel in the aftermath of today. Like the family crisis that following year. And the job, and the job after that, that seemed to continually force me to face the question of who I wanted to show up as in the world and where I really belonged.

Those events were all triggers in getting me to this point in my life. These were the events that fully ushered me into adulthood.  The numbers on the birthday cards may confirm that you are an adult, but life pushes you into the lifestage through its changes, only when it is ready.

Change can be good.

A few weeks after the steam pipe explosion, I was having a conversation with Judy, and I mentioned something about that day. I said that something would happen and would take me back to that day. That I felt a bit scarred by the whole thing.

“But, Dena,” she said. “It’s over.”

It was time to move on to our new normal.

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