“O Western wind, when wilt thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.”
I first read this poem in Madeline L’Engle’s novel The Small Rain. As a rabid reader, my library card was my greatest friend as an adolescent. Many of my first independent trips in Dallas were to the library. I first picked up The Small Rain on a shelf on the fourth floor, maybe, of the downtown Dallas public library. I quickly fell in love with Katherine, the main character, and her struggles in coming of age as a young artist. Her dreamy insouciance and uncomfortableness in her own skin resonated with me as did her independent explorations of her city, in this case New York. When I went to New York for the first time last week, I carried L’Engle’s version of the city with me. Indeed, I was probably the worst first time visitor. I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to particularly see. I didn’t have a checklist or a plan. I just wanted to see the world L’Engle had captured on the page, a world of city streets, little corners, brownstones, and lived existence.
Me in Battery Park, I think…
Cassie and Jill with the Statue of Liberty somewhere behind them.
I went with four of my favorite people: Jill, Cassie and Matt, and their two year old daughter Lily. I went to graduate school with Jill and Cassie. Indeed, I made it through graduate school and the non-existent job market of 2008/9 with my sanity intact because of them. We spent most of our time in New York walking, looking, catching up on the good and bad in our lives, and eating. Oh gosh, so much eating. It was amazing. The first full day we walked 9 miles, according to Cassie’s fit bit, mostly around Central Park, where we saw the Alice in Wonderland Statue. Fitting, I think, since I have pictures of myself in front of the Peter Pan Statue in Hyde Park.
Alice in Wonderland Statue
Matt and Lily being cute.
Mostly, I drank the city in, pausing to look at buildings and people, imagining what a New York life would look like. I think what surprised me most is that L’Engle’s version of New York was the true one and not the one from shows like Sex and the City. It shouldn’t have. L’Engle, after all, came of age with the city, documenting its rhythms in a quieter way than a sensationalized sex column. People were ordinary, not high fashionistas stomping around the place in Jimmy Choos. I could see why street style photos and street style in general have become more popular as a push back against this stereotype. (It’s one of the reasons I really like the new direction Lucky Magazine has gone in. It was one of the few fashion magazines I read anymore.) It was a relief, in fact, not to have the specter of Sex and the City haunting the place. I could enjoy the quirkiness, the plainness, and the serenity of the city.
One man subway band
Split, the world’s strangest topiary in Rockefeller Center
My favorite parts were sitting at restaurants, shopping in little stores, and waking up to coffee, good friends, and Lily’s hugs and compliments.