Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Cloisters

Today the sun appeared nearly all day after weeks of rain and clouds. I went to The Cloisters and sat in the herb garden for hours. The quince trees now have little green jewels of fruits that will develop into yellow globes by fall. The pear tree has climbed its multi-pronged trellis and covers one of the walls with mature green leaves. The thistle has overgrown its bed and overhangs one of the walks with prickly determination. But what I most covet is a small potted pomegranate dotted with brilliant red flowers trying to become miniature fruits. The sun's warmth reminded of California. For once I forgot about skin damage and sat in direct sunlight watching tourists and locals absorb the calm. The Cloisters affect everyone the same: stress melts away. When I returned home, I congratulated myself for having developed sunburned shoulders for the first time this summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Newspaper Man

For the last year I have been passing the Newspaper Man on the way to work in the morning. He stands at the entrance to the subway, and on sunny days he sets up shop at the top of the stairs near the racket of the bus stop. On rainy days he displays his papers-- The Daily News, The New York Times-- far enough removed from the double doors to keep the papers safe from encroaching puddles. When we first met, he would look at me shyly, then quickly glance away without uttering a word. But he is there every morning, and it seemed unfriendly not to say hi to each other. Throughout the year (cold, unending winter-- he was still there), we exchanged quick hellos, nothing more. His voice is soft, accented with Africa. This morning, after weeks of rain and humidity, the air was thinner, the mood lighter. Spontaneously he said, "Good morning, how are you?" I felt a little triumph-- previously I had been the one initiating the hellos.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Early Summer?

New York is refusing to allow summer in. For weeks we have had clouds and rain. Forecasters have predicted thunderstorms for this evening, and the air sags with humidity. But yesterday, the sun made an appearance, accompanied by a fresh breeze straight off the ocean. I sat near the Heather Garden, and listened to a free concert: a string quartet with the Hudson as the backdrop. Pink roses spray painted the hillside behind me, and I laid on the grass gazing thankfully at the clear blue sky. That evening, the opera man, his denim shirt still stretching over a magnificent beer belly, sat on the hillside in his fold-up chair. As he drank his nightly wine, opera followed the quartet, cascading down the hillside to the Hudson.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sour Face

While walking in the Heather Garden, I have sometimes passed a thin elderly woman. Her thick white hair is always pulled into a loose ponytail with escaping wisps of hair dangling beside her face. With brows knit in concentration and the corners of her mouth turned abruptly downward at ninety degrees, she appears preoccupied. She walks hurriedly in white running shoes, as if late for an important meeting. Her arms swing forcefully, propelling her onward. Occasionally I see her with a man, whose soft face forms the yang to her hard expression. I have wondered, how could a woman with such a sour face attract friends, let alone a man? But there he is, keeping up with her, though with more relaxation.

The other day was radiant with late spring sun, and I strolled slowly, admiring the freshly sprung roses in the Heather Garden. Along came the woman, full of hustle and bustle. Overcome by the beauty of the garden, she burst out at me, "I've lived here since I was a child!" It surprised me. I had invented stories about her, but not imagined this detail. I replied, "Must have changed a lot." Her simple reply: "Yes, yes it has." And then she was off, as abruptly as ever. Since then, I have noticed her stopping to talk briefly to others. It is something new for her, or perhaps I had failed to notice it before. When I pass her on the street, she continues to walk quickly past, her eyebrows knit tightly together. I try to catch her eye, but since that one occasion have been unsuccessful. It might take another chance encounter in the Heather Garden. The butterfly bushes will soon bloom and timing is everything.