The View from St. Paul's
During lunch today I found a bench in the courtyard of St. Paul's church. As I sat, my inclination was to indulge in my usual lunchtime habit: plunging my face into a book, and reading slow enough so that my eyes hit most of the words, but fast enough so that I end up with only a vague idea of what I was just staring at. Most of the time I am convinced that in those five minutes of semi-mindless page turning, I just might trip over some bit of trivia to add to my stock of pointless knowledge, thereby increasing the prideful satisfaction I take in being better than just about every fact-hoarder who dares show his face on Jeopardy. Ken Jennings excepted.
For some reason, though, the usual impulses passed. I sat with eyes glazed, staring through gaps in the tree-tops at blue sky framed by concrete. My mind bounced between the coming nightmare—the packing tape and heavy lifting—and those few years' worth of slippery memories that Janelle and I are currently wrapping in newspaper and cardboard for safe keeping. Really, it wasn't that long ago that my wife and I took off on a 2,000 mile road trip that ended in front of a one hundred-year-old Manhattan brownstone with an empty fifth floor apartment and no elevator. Our initial reaction was soaked in worry. The stairs inside spiraled upwards, groaning at every step and clinging to the wall like a wobbly octogenarian gripping his cane. But our reservations cleared as we approached the top—the ascent opened into an urban Eden, complete with high ceilings, hardwood floors and reasonable rent.
Our belly-flop into urban life had the inevitable rocks, but, as the saying goes, these were the best two years of my life. It's odd. I usually make a point to avoid obvious sentimentality, but the New York sounds and the New York smells and the New York heat were, at that moment, overwhelming. The thoughts and feelings bouncing through my mind as I sat in the shadow of St. Paul's today were, I imagine, similar to those we might have had just before we hopped on this earthly merry-go-round. I'm happy and comfortable here. I have a ingrown longing to stay. I feel like I'm at home.