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Posts Tagged ‘New York City and Wilderness’

Queensboro Bridge Sunset

The sun sets behind the Queensboro Bridge and Manhattan, the East River in the foreground, taken from Queens

 

The white glow of Times Square after midnight draws me forward like a moth, straight down Broadway.  I have this terrible feeling of being unmoored.  Where am I going?  What the Hell am I doing?  These are metaphorical questions, for life has changed drastically.

As I walk the pavement I remember a day in July, just a few short months ago, sitting on my backyard deck in Colorado. It was a perfect summer evening.  The sunset was particularly interesting over Longs Peak—lots of greenish-blue mixed in with the fiery oranges and reds and pinks.  I was content if not happy as I watched my daughter splash in her little water table while my wife sipped a drink.  She seemed relaxed and thoughtful, but I knew there was something simmering.

Now, in December, I’m a man heading for divorce, and a new project at work takes me weekly to Manhattan.  My home in Colorado?  For now it’s my Mom’s basement.  I shudder at the thought.  I am that guy.  I am 41 years old and living in my Mom’s basement while my soon-to-be ex-wife rattles around in our 3,700 square foot home.  I see my daughter, the sweetest little girl in the World, Friday afternoons through Monday mornings.

New York has been a blessing and a curse, and my life is like the opener in A Tale of Two Cities. At first it was an elixir.  It was the antidote to the grief and pain of divorce.  I met a nice, attractive woman to hang out with, and we stayed out late into the nights.  It was worth it, then, to be miserably tired at work during the day.  After work, I was freed from the chains of commitment, in the middle of a sea of women and possibilities.  There were no limits.  This was New York!

But, it was a temporary distraction. When you divorce, you grieve.   You can’t avoid it.  You have to go through the process.  And so, when the distraction ran its course, the extreme sadness, guilt, confusion, and, at times, even despair, set in.

Now, I walk the streets of New York City alone at night feeling a bone-numbing isolation. The people are all around, day and night–a crushing mass of human activity.  They are all in a hurry in their stylish black coats and severe hair.  They mean business.  Car horns blare impatiently for no reason.   Sirens pierce the air.  People yell and laugh and curse loudly.  Mostly people hurry, from one place to the next and to the next.  They hop on and off cold steel subway cars, run up and down dirty concrete, dodge taxis, take elevators, glance into glass storefronts and corner delis.  And here I am, just one soul of millions.  Alone.  Searching for my new trail; a new dock on the waterfront; my new rock in the sun.  I don’t belong here.

And, yet, I’ve come to appreciate this megacity and all the humanity.  In that buzzing hive of impersonal industry and commerce, there is the longing glance in my direction from a beautiful woman.  There is the mother laughing with her toddler.  There are men bantering jovially at the food stand.  I see a man just strolling, arms held out wide and a great big smile on his face, just taking it all in.  There is another man whom I see helping a random stranger pull a bunch of luggage up a flight of subway stairs.

I walked Central Park, amazed at the contrast between urban bustle and green oasis.  As soon as you cross the street into The Park you see the change in the people.  Those same severe professionals who lacked the patience to wait for the walk sign to cross the road now sit on the rocks of Central Park with their shoes off basking in the sun and filtered shade of nature.  Those same miserable, stressed-out looking women clacking their high heels down West 58th street now stroll in the grass in Sheep’s Meadow, or sit and meditate over The Lake on a park bench.

I believe, when this seismic life change is passed, and I’ve found my mooring again, I will look back at my time in New York as a transformational wilderness-like experience. They say wilderness can be a state of mind.  I believe that more than ever, now.  Here in New York, where millions of people bear down on each other, where steel and concrete and glass dominate the scenery, one’s mind can feel as isolated as if in the Alaskan tundra.  And, sometimes that isolation is just what is needed to heal.

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