Sunday, March 20, 2011
I've just returned home from a working vacation in New York City.
To be able to write those words seems such a miracle to me. For New York to now be a part of my being, with real memories and amazing experiences, instead of merely an exciting character in stories, seems the stuff of fairy tales come true. Like all good adventures in my experience, this one has shifted my equilibrium ever so slightly, and in ways I expect to continue to discover for some time to come.
My friend Suzy invited. She had access to an apartment on the Lower East Side and vacation time coming. We had writing work to do together. I'd never been to this legendary city. Yes was the only possible answer.
In the weeks before I traveled, as we planned how to spend our four days, the one thing I anticipated with the greatest pleasure was getting to see the Statue of Liberty. Time with Suzy, two Broadway plays, lunch at the Algonquin, bus tours of the city, the library and its lions, the Top of the Rock, and a visit to Ground Zero were all eagerly looked forward to (and greatly enjoyed in real time), but it was Lady Liberty who called to me the strongest.
Drawn by the symbolism of her solitary green presence in the harbor and the thought that I would actually get to experience her first hand, I've carried Liberty with me like a new friend since Suzy's first mention of the trip. Sometime early on I decided I needed to ascend the 354 steps to the crown, both to meet the unique challenge, and to get to see the world through those twenty-five windows which represent each of the gemstones known to exist when she was built.
One small problem. My SI joint issues, which I've been working so hard to overcome, were not healing as quickly as I expected or wanted. As the time grew closer to my departure, I came to accept I might have to, probably would have to, give up that part of the dream. I couldn't walk up the steps to the second story in our home without pain. It didn't seem reasonable to think I'd be able to manage the 22 stories to Liberty's crown. Not without undoing all the significant progress I've made in the last six weeks.
So I flew across the country and spent the first three days of our vacation enjoying each gift of new experience to the fullest, and deeply grateful to be immersed in the life of a city I've spent my life both fearing and longing to be a part of. Thursday, the last day, and our scheduled Statue of Liberty day, dawned clear, sunny, and promised the first genuine warmth of the season. That it was St. Patrick's Day, a sort of big deal in NYC, held little relevance for me.
I'd spent the previous days admiring Liberty from the windows of our apartment, far off in the distance. From time to time in our travels, I'd catch a glimpse of her silhouette, dwarfed by the immensity of everything around her. When the ferry pulled away from the dock that Thursday, my eyes locked on her majestic form, and stayed on her one way or the other for most of the rest of the day.
After landing, Suzy found a bench for basking in the sun while I went to check in. I intended to use my crown access (only 240 granted a day - we had ours thanks to Suzy's great planning) to go only as high as the top of the pedestal. There were two women in front of me, also with access to the crown, who were close to my age. As I listened to the ranger explain the process to them I became aware I had decided to go as far as I could. That I would move forward, literally, one step at a time, and decide whether to take the next step when I was there.
I got my special orange wrist band. Found the lockers, put everything except my camera inside. Walked through security for the second time that day. Pushed through heavy glass doors to find myself inside the very bottom of the pedestal.
The ranger explained about going to a certain point before another ranger would check our wristbands and then send us up inside Liberty. She grouped me with the two women I'd eavesdropped on earlier. We began climbing steps, laughing, chattering and looking around in awe. By the time we got to the top of the pedestal, and the last place I could have chosen to turn back, I realized we'd already climbed half the steps.
At that point I saw the dream I'd released, reborn right in front of me, waiting to be reclaimed. My hip felt fine. I was on my way to the crown.
We began spiraling upward, each narrow step curved tightly toward a center that would end at the top of the world. I followed my new friends, pleasantly surprised that I was keeping up with little effort. And completely shocked when the woman in front announced we were there. I was just getting warmed up.
The view itself was limited by the size and shape of the crown, but I have never enjoyed a panorama more. I haven't felt so alive in a very long time. Some little girl part of me jumped up and down with glee. I know when I found Suzy back on the ground I was beaming with an intensity to match the sun shining on our bright spring day.
A gift. An answer to prayers for healing. A wish granted. Grace. However that day might be named, I wear the light-filled joy of it with gratitude. I hope the glow of it travels out from me as the glow of Liberty's torch has found its way to countless longing-filled hearts.