Friday, March 14, 2014

Stunned by a Paragraph III

From Sussex by Esther Meynell

Each Sussex man or woman has one particular place or aspect in the county that above all others means Sussex. For me, in spite of a personal preference for the Eastern Downs, it is Chanctonbury, but Chanctonbury from far away. It was that blue view of Chanctonbury which gave me in childhood my first conscious feeling of the beauty of the visible world and the mystery of the invisible. Standing in the rough matted grass of a neglected field, looking westward, with the great line of the Downs sweeping towards a sunset sky where the headland of Chanctonbury floated like something of another world, beauty took hold of me, consciously and inescapably – the curious ache of it, and the troubling for the first time laid on the young resilient heart.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New York Weekend

I am this side of a weekend in New York City.

The last time I visited the city was over three years ago. I was taking part in a conference in October 2010 on the Columbia campus. Travelling with colleagues, I managed some time on my own. One evening I attended a play written in rhyming couplets about a seventeenth-century French dramatist modeled on Moliere. I took the bus down from Columbia another day and strolled through the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side.

A year earlier I had made a summer visit to a friend in the City. She and I sat gaping during one matinee performance of Mary Stuart while the heroine opened her arms to a rainstorm onstage. A poet and writer and librarian, my friend agreed to join me in journaling in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library; we took seats outside the library later and read to one another what we had written.

In the city on various occasions over the past three decades, I have strolled through Greenwich Village on numerous evenings with friends from New Jersey, attended Madama Butterfly at the Met for my fortieth birthday, went to Mass again and again at St Francis Xavier near Washington Square, and haunted the aisles of the Strand Book Store.

If I review New York memories at this point, it is to be able to step off the bus this Saturday morning and greet the friend meeting me and match his pace across town to lunch. No standing with a map, no squinting up at street signs. Just a weekend in the City. Just good conversation and unhurried eating. How did I get this lucky again?