Getting older isn’t always a reason to celebrate, and in many years past I planned my birthday as if it were a delicate operation. The goal was to make sure it was full of good portents for the coming year. I would search for meaning in every interaction, and work hard to create a “perfect moment.”
This year has been such a wild ride that I threw caution to the wind, and took the train to New York with only a loose agenda. There I met up with my friends Moira, Jen, and Jen, ate some great meals, had some wonderful conversation, and allowed myself to relax.
As it often is with traveling, I found myself with a little time on my own at the beginning and end of the trip, waiting to meet people, or to catch my train home. Without a destination, I walked the streets of New York like a tourist (which I was, but didn’t want anyone to know), giving myself permission to really look around me: gazing up at the tops of buildings; pausing to watch, and enjoy, street performers’ shtick; and noticing, and then joining the free admission line that snaked around the MOMA, where I talked with the folks in line behind me.
By taking the time to really look around me, I was able to witness the incredible sense of movement in the city. At home in Baltimore, there is a lot of waiting – people standing in lines that don’t seem to move, and waiting for buses that may come, someday. In New York it felt like everyone was charged with static – even while reading a newspaper at a lunch counter.
It seemed appropriate then that when I tried to take a picture with my crappy phone, the photos always turned out blurry. For once I gave in to this aesthetic, and tried to capture the movement of the people I encountered, from the street performers to museum goers, to a bubbling sea of enthusiastic artists at a magazine launch. (The magazine in question, Carrier Pigeon is a beautiful collection of illustrations and writing, well worth a look).
Pausing to reflect on this current of energy may have been the perfect birthday present, as I find myself in the midst of changing directions, and most definitely on the move.
And now, home again, I’m going to shift gears to focus on listening more, and what better way to begin than by participating the National Day of Listening. I encourage you to join me in taking some time to listen to a family member or friend’s story. By watching the world go by, or listening closely to a dear friend, we can be witnesses to the beautiful, human moments in life.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.