"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meeting Liberty

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.


Desiree said...

What a wonderful story, Deb! I could feel all of your excitement, anticipation and dread right the way through and your triumph at having conquered your own personal dream and your own Mount Everest...an incredible shared moment you've offered us all out here, in Blog Land! I don't think I'll ever get to see Liberty in person, but having experienced your passion and feelings right here, I truly don't think I'd ever need to, as you've really succeeded in making your own experience so alive and real! And your photograph of Liberty is beautiful...the clearest I've ever seen. Your own beaming face says it all!!! WELL DONE!!!

DJan said...

Congratulations on, as Desiree said, climbing your very own Everest. And that picture is priceless, of you smiling from the very core of your being. I am thrilled for you, and I thank you so much for writing this so masterfully, and passing it along to me. Great post!

Carol............. said...

Woohoo to you for your tenacity and reaching your goal.

What an exciting adventure. And it seems that many times life is just like that...one step at a time will often lead us to the top.

Have a great week.

Wanda said...

I love how you beam! Perhaps Lady Liberty is one of the facets of Mary? Hahahaha.


Love the pic of you - you look so happy. God bless.
I've seen the statue from a distance but not that up close.
A trip to NYC is every girl's dream.
Once I went I wanted to go back - I'm still waiting for the opportunity. How fun to have an apt there and actually experience what it must feel like to live there.
Extraordinary trip. Thanks for sharing. Love and blessings! B

Stacy said...

How exciting. That is a dream trip of mine too. I want to see Ellis Island.

I am so glad that you could make it to the top. You deserve a break, and He gave it to you.

Hope you enjoy being back home.

Linda Hoye said...

A beautiful account of this grand adventure! I am pleased you were able to fulfill this dream - you look so happy!

P.S. Welcome home

yaya said...

I felt your excitment, wonder, awe, and triumph over adversity in every word Deb! I'm glad you were able to do this. I had a similar experience a few years ago with my Mom. My hubby had a conference in White Plains and my Mom flew in and met up with us and her and I took a train to downtown NY...what a great day and it was a dream of my Mom's to visit Ellis Island. Her Mother and Father both came through Ellis at different times, but it was the experience of her Mom she so wanted to re- visit. When she was able to sit on a bench that perhaps her Mom had sat on too, with tears in her eyes, she was so happy to have fullfilled that wish. Even at age 81, dreams can be realized.

Linda Myers said...

You never know when your body will say, "Let's do it." How fabulous for you!

Linda Hoye said...

P.S. There is linky love on my site!

Barb said...

Wonderful, Deb! What special stairs you climbed. I felt as though you were taking me up with you. Liberty and freedom - a wonderful symbolism for you to bring home with you. PS I really like your new spring look!

Joanne said...

New York City is such a magical place. I've been to Ellis Island, but not to The Statue of Liberty. What a beautiful journey you took, step by step.

Amber said...

Darling woman, you look wonderful! I can see the joy of your moment.

love love love it!


Wanda..... said...

You are glowing and look so happy with your personal accomplishment. Glad you have the memory, Deb.

Sally Wessely said...

You made my heart smile. I think I learned something from you in this post. We limit ourselves in our minds and then are amazed at the freedom our bodies give us when we take just one step at a time.

I studied the photo of you. You look amazing! Are you sure you didn't change for the photo? You are dressed in white and lace. You are glowing. You don't look like you just went on a climb to the top of Lady Liberty.


Sandi Babbitt said...

Wowza Deb! I'm so thrilled for you, but I must admit, not too surprised that you succeeded in your quest for the top! However, what an incredible moment it must have been when you reached the top, without even being aware that you'd made it! Putting one foot in front of the other, with trust, is pretty powerful.

As always, your descriptions are beautifully worded, and the story so exciting!

I'm so very glad you were given this opportunity to experience New York. Great pictures, too!

Donna said...

I'm so excited for you, Deb...your face was glowing in that last picture, I love that! This was a great post. Reading about overcoming adversity and being able to enjoy a great event. I'm so glad you got to enjoy your trip! Seeing New York is on my bucket list too....but for now will enjoy seeing it through your eyes!!

Leslie at SugarAndSpiceADK. said...

You are absolutely GLOWING in that photo, Deb--Hooray for you! This, too, is a dream of mine, but some days I feel like my illness will prevent me from making the whole climb....I like your "one step at a time" attitide so much. Wonderful post!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Oh, it's perfect! A perfect story. I'm so glad you didn't decide against the notion of going all the way up. What an experience.

The whole trip sounds awesome. I can think of few things more fun and uplifting than traveling with a dear friend. Exploration! Independence! And experience! Very cool.

tricia said...

SO, SO HAPPY you got to experience that! You deserve it and your body knew that, so it decided to comply. Yay. Must meet soon to share stories!!

Mark Lyons said...

A part of me was jumping up and down with glee inside as well! It's not often in life when we actually get to have such a dream fulfilled...and have it be all (or more) than we could have hoped for.

Thank you for sharing your adventure.


kario said...

I love what this year has done to allow you to spread your wings! You have had such wonderful adventures and that photo of you at the top of the Statue of Liberty says it all.


Laura said...

Oh sweet friend I'm so happy you were able to access this dream. The smile on you face is truly one filled with the experience of freedom.

Angie Ledbetter said...

SO very glad you made it to the top! What a beautiful photo treasure you have now. A memory nobody or thing can ever take from you. YOU DID IT!

I reclimbed the steps with you, decades ago I climbed into that crown. :) Hugs

Unknown said...

You are absolutely radiant with life, Deb.
It's a contagious gratitude for life.
Thank you for spilling out this love for us..
for me.
I've been lucky enough to have gone to NYC twice , but not to the SOL... now I'm completely intrigued.

Anonymous said...

You look wonderful and happy, congratulations on the climb.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh Deb, my heart pounds... this is such as inspiring experience. A marvelous quest, a courageous lady!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your sweet comments. Very kind of you!


JenniferL said...

love love love love LOVE IT!!!!

the picture of you up there is so great! isn't it amazing how these inexplicable things happen when we actually need them to?

so much love and joy and happiness and a wink for that feeling you get when you totally know what someone's talking about :-)

Katie Gates said...

Oh Deb, this post made me cry. I am so glad you got to go to New York. There is nothing like it... And isn't it wonderful when realizing a dream trumps physical pain?

Unknown said...

Oh, mannn, I just left you a beautiful comment about your blog and lost it I think.

So, if you already have one from me then OK...here's another one.

I just clicked on as a follower because I thought you wrote a wonderful post. kt

Anonymous said...

I've not been to New York but my
2nd daughter went a year ago and absolutely loved it. I loved sharing your journey and cheered at the finish when I saw the proof that you had 'made it' in the photograph! Brilliant :-)

graceonline said...

Wonderfully told. The suspense and anticipation perfect counterpoints. The glow on your face, priceless. You appear energized, not the least worn or breathless. What is so amazing to me is that you seem to have climbed effortlessly: Surprised to discover you were at the top!

Thank you.

Bernie said...

A wonderful post--two wonderful posts. I read the one about your empathy for the feelings of those who came through Ellis Island first. Both of my parents came through Ellis Island in the early 1900's but not together. Both were young --18--my dad came to relatives in Moline, Ill.-- my mom with no one. She was a domestic in Rochester, New York and met my dad there. I really enjoyed both of your posts. And I loved how you got to the top of the Statue of Liberty and took all of us with you! I have seen it from Battery Park, but the line was so long we passed on going out to the island. Wish we hadn't now. It was always "We'll do it next time" and there never was a next time.

You are such a wonder, Deb!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"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"

I thoroughly understood this. As a young woman, I thought an opportunity to live in NYC would be the most ultimate of lives. I yearned for that adventure. Perhaps growing up in the middle of nowhere (Minnesota and Colorado) brought that on. Around the age of 30, we lived in Connecticut for a couple years. Went to NYC every chance we had. Satisfied something in me.

However, I've only ever seen the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island ferry. Climbing to the top - still on my list. Well, I'm lying. Do they have an elevator?