Wednesday, September 29, 2010

small ramparts for the soul

This morning is a good start to the day.  I sleep in, make a pot of coffee, dawdle on facebook, eat a banana...then a peach, and go running along the Hudson.

In the midst of all this, I find myself missing family quite a bit.  Not quite homesick, but not totally contented with my solo living, either.  So it's a good thing I'm running.  

God gave our bodies these lovely little chemicals called endorphins.  They help me be a little happier.  And running cranks up their production, which means that while I may be sweaty and squinting in the sunshine--after breaking my second pair of sunglasses this month--I'm doing my body and spirit some good.  

And my iPod is just icing on the cake for this getting-better day.

You probably couldn't pay me to run without music.  I need a steady drive in the bass and drums to kick my butt into gear, and I have at least three iTunes playlist dedicated specifically to the satiation of that need.  Most of it is upbeat, but there are a few songs for the cool-down on the way home.  Today's was "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves.

Sara is such a poet.  And I love that music is something that evolved really naturally in her life.  She was a teacher for a long time.  Then one day, she decided to put together a record with her husband.  How cool is that?  And it wasn't some sort of fame-hungry whim that spurred her on.  She doesn't write empty bubble-gum pop.  Her music is story and spirit and beauty.

My favorite lines from "Why It Matters" speak for themselves:

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
'Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

So while I may feel a little thin, I know God has my back.  His love builds small ramparts for my soul, and I'm so thankful for each one.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and I am always surprised to find them: 

  • a busy dad taking time out for a bike ride with his kids
  • an old lady walking her dog which, oddly, looks a lot like its owner
  • a couple kissing in the park
  • the easy camaraderie of dusty, worn-out construction workers on their lunch breaks
  • a bouquet of flowers on their way to be delivered to someone who is loved
  • honest smiles from strangers
  • the East Village college kid who stops to comfort the homeless man who, shaking in the grips of withdrawal, has collapsed on the street corner
  • an over-scheduled Wall Street businessman taking time to give directions to an obviously-lost tourist
  • the folks in Times Square with big smiles and signs that read "FREE HUGS"

It's easy to dwell on the war inside your spirit some days.  But try finding the ramparts.  

They're everywhere.  :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Giving Up the Ghost

Once in a while, just a few lines in a song will take me back...

"I don't think you ever learned a thing from me,
But I'm sure that you want me to learn from you. 
And you've drawn heavy-handed lines around morality,
About yourself, and I don't share your point of view.  
It's been time to let you go a thousand times. 
You never know that it hurts to be the one that you'd regret
I have to say that I am proud to know you 
And I'll never be the same because we met. 
You might not miss this, 
But I will, I will, I will."

-Brandi Carlile, "I Will" from Give Up the Ghost

I think back to where I was just two years ago, and it's like I see a different person: a girl unsure of who she is, wearing her heart on her sleeve and about to fall head-over-heels in love.  Innocent and complicated and scared and wild-eyed.  Loud and messy and silent.  Indecisive.  Hopeful.  Sometimes, that girl feels very close.  But most days, she feels a million miles away.  

Two years ago, this small girl in her very small world learned that there are times when not even love can overcome the "heavy-handed lines."  She learned that sometimes people come along and scrawl all over your life in permanent ink.  They make demands, smirk at compromise, and leave their mark forever.  It's not always pretty, but it's there.  And it's something to look back on so you can remember, "I was there once."

Some people drew beauty and love and promise on her life.  Some drew spite and jealousy and that sour-stomach feeling that develops with a grudge.  But one left just an outline.  A brief but deliberate encircling of something that fades a little each day but never really goes away.  It's there, even at its faintest.  Like a ghost.  A quiet, passing reminder.  A spectral post-it note of sorts.

The girl is a little more grown-up now (but not so much).  Sometimes, she loves the ghost and thanks God for it.  Other times, it makes her angry.  But mostly, she just watches it pass through a back room in her heart from time to time, seeing it grow more still and faint and quiet.  She thinks she's slowly giving up the ghost.  

But then, maybe it will always be there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A surprising audience...

Soooo...I just figured out how to see the stats on my blog (didn't know they had those!), and my readership comes from some interesting places: 

-91 from the USA (duh)
-4 from Switzerland (I have only one Swiss friend...)
-3 from Latvia
-1 from Luxembourg

Huh.  Wonder who those last five or six folks are... Anyway, welcome to the world of a silly 22-year-old newbie New Yorker!

If you're getting anything out of what I write, please feel free to comment on my posts! :)

Eyes to the sky

Two weeks ago, I stood at Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  Tonight, I'm in the Hamptons after almost a week in Steamboat Springs with The Girls.  So much happens so fast.  I feel like before I know it, I'll be throwing a 30th birthday bash.

A few weeks ago, Ben and I showed up at the Booth Theatre just off Times Square to see "Next to Normal."  We entered in the lottery for $25 and didn't win.  But the perk to showing up for that was $40 "Lottery Loser" tickets.  I'd say it's pretty good to be a loser.  Marin Mazzie was phenomenal in the central role, as was her real-life husband, Jason Danieley (pictured), who played her husband in the show.  This show started near my childhood stomping grounds, at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, so I was proud to see it as a full-fledged Broadway production all the way across the country. 

While G&E and the kids were away in California earlier this month,  I got to apartment-sit.  Naturally, I took the opportunity to cook in their fabulous kitchen.  Dani King visited me in the middle of her romp through the East Coast, so I made her a brunch of French toast and coffee.  It was lovely having her here.  :)

And, of course I made use of some sad-looking bananas.  I'm proud to say they were near-perfect.  And I was even nice enough to save a couple for the kids to have as a treat when they got home.

Another of my kitchen adventures was probably one of the last meat dishes I'll eat for a while (after reading Skinny Bitch--more on that later).  Chicken fajitas are delish, especially when I'm craving something with a little kick of cayenne pepper.  Not that there isn't enough ethnic food in this city to keep me eating something different for at least ten years.  But I like being in the kitchen and doing it myself sometimes.  Plus, eating out is expensive.  And I'm trying to save for headshots.

And to add to the randomness of this blog post, here are a few miscellaneous photos of this city I love.

Sunset in TriBeCa

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

I'd love a house like this someday.  I saw it on the way home after dropping Laura off at JFK.

The view from my rooftop terrace on the 7th floor

New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world.  And despite the many differences among the people who call themselves New Yorkers, there is a common thread of patriotism I notice on a daily basis.  This neighborhood in Brooklyn was full of American flags, yellow ribbons, and "Support our Troops" bumper stickers.  My guess is that a lot of these families have daughters and sons in the military.  

Pray they make it home safe and healthy, in body and spirit.
The 9/11 Tribute in Light, Lower Manhattan

The light was visible from miles away and so bright that tens of thousands of migratory birds became disoriented and trapped in the lights.  Sad for the birds but a magnificent sight for everyone else.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

At Home on 9/11

This morning, I'm up at 9:00.  I throw on running clothes, grab a bowl of raisin bran, and head for Battery Park City, along the western shore of Lower Manhattan.  It's only a couple of blocks from my new place in Tribeca, and it's a hot spot for runners, roller-bladers, and moms with jogging strollers.  I'm running, but I'm still half-asleep.

It takes me a few minutes to realize what today really means.  Nine years ago today, my mom called me downstairs from brushing my teeth before school to watch the news on our tiny black-and-white TV--the only one picking up a signal at the time.  I'll never forget that day.  I was thirteen, and I couldn't understand how humans could be capable of something so horrendous as flying commercial jets into skyscrapers.

It's been nine years, and I still remember that cold, lead-weight feeling that settled in the bottom of my stomach as hot tears stained my cheeks.  And the feeling comes back every so often, especially on days like today.

This is my first 9/11 anniversary in New York City.  From where I'm running, I have a view of Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.  Just inside the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, there's a grand staircase leading up to a wall of glass.  I stop in along my run, and through the windows, I can see the progress being made at Ground Zero.  The 9/11 Memorial is in construction, and even on a Saturday morning, there are workers buzzing around to complete their work on time.  I stand with my face to the glass, one of a long stretch of onlookers, and turn my head to the gaping hole in the sky.  It's a gorgeous stretch of sun-kissed blue.  But it's one of the saddest things in New York.  Because we're not supposed to see the sky.