A Big World

I roll the window down in the back of the taxi so I can smell New York. Diesel trucks and car stereos saturate the humid air on the Williamsburg bridge. After we check into our hotel in the Lower East Side we set off for the subway, eager to make it to the southern tip of Manhattan before the sun sets. We lose some time figuring out the turnstiles and which line goes north and which goes south, but soon we’re flying through the darkness under the huge city. Giddy with adventure–laughing and posing for photos–we stare at the passengers around us, imagining their private worlds. Where do they work? How often do they see the stars? What would it be like to live in this pulsing knot of babies, taxis, high-heels and light?


On our way to the subway stop


first subway ride


we make it to the water just in time to see the sun’s last light


Statue of Liberty

The night is warm and scented with garbage, soft pretzels, and greenery. On our way back from Lady Liberty and the glittering harbour, Belén spies a rat. Just before we reach our hotel, a fight breaks out in the middle of the street. While cars stop and men rage I push Belén and Susanna forward, telling them to look straight ahead and keep walking. The neighbourhood isn’t touristy, but we chose to stay here because we wanted to walk the the streets of this great read-aloud:



Belén and Susie playing on the sidewalk, down the street from our hotel.

The cabbie who picked us up from the airport indicates the multicultural flavour of the 1800’s (described in the novel we read) is still strong today.

“New York. World City,” he says, and then repeats, “World City. New York.”

Susanna and Belén notice it, too. “Why are there so many people with dark-skin?” Susanna wonders aloud.

Belén keeps asking what language people are speaking, “Is it Spanish, Mom?” When she hears French, she lingers a little closer and smiles.

In one subway station a busker stamps out South American folk tunes. In another, an accordion player serenades commuters as if the subterranean tracks were the canals of Venice.


mosaic art in Greenwich Village


Corner store stop on our way through the village.


We criss-cross the city, hitting up the museums, parks and restaurants on our list, but I’m disoriented the whole time. No matter how often I look at the map I can’t seem to find my cardinal bearings, which is unusual for me. When I suggest turning left, Stan looks at me funny, shakes his head, and points us right. I mutter something about needing a big sky to navigate but any discomfort I feel from our foreign surroundings is also accompanied by a sense of refreshment. It’s good to be far from home where the streets rush with diversity.


Stan, gripping Belén and Susanna’s hands, heading towards Times Square.


While shopping at Times Square we saw this plastic campfire set. I think the fake marshmallows generated the disbelief and pity on Belén’s face.


Susanna, acting like a local, at a tea shop.

Seeing people who look, dress, talk, move, and live differently than we do is like a whoosh of air that comes out of blacksmith bellows, only in this case, it’s a surge of creativity and possibility, instead of oxygen. And as much as I believe in burrowing into the place I am; getting to know my neighbours and the square footage (indoor and outdoor) we inhabit, I also know that Ieaving it widens my perception. Like a groundhog who looks up from her hole in the ground, I realize the world is so much bigger than I thought it was. One of the luxuries of travel is the break from all the tunnels and holes of our regular life and the chance to look at the expanse around us. The other luxury, of course, is coming home…

Here, with no hipsters to serve us drinks, we have to collect the herbs ourselves which, I figure, is at least half the pleasure of drinking tea anyway…


Belén, picking calendula blossoms from our garden




finding plantain leaves in our lawn to add to the tea

Back in the dirt,



Harvesting garlic after returning home

PS. The whole reason we went to New York was to meet up with Stan’s family, three hours east of the city. Since posting about it would involve quoting late-night campfire discussions I opted for these parting shots instead:


Uncle Jon’s bed-time stories in the cousins’ quarters


Hiking up to a scenic ridge (on the Appalachian Trail)


kids and babies get passed between adult hands and laps




6 thoughts on “A Big World

  1. I have been waiting for this blog….wondering how you enjoyed NY. I see in the pictures that you are not body on body as I shared with you might happen!! In fact, I don’t see many people on the sidewalks at all. Did you enjoy the Park? I need to hear more stories……

    • Maybe the pictures don’t show it very well…I thought there were plenty of people, esp. downtown. We did enjoy the park but it was raining, so we didn’t linger as long as we might have. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Lion King. We thought we were being so savvy by waiting to get tickets the day of like we’d heard, but they sold out… augghh! So we went shopping instead–something we hadn’t planned on doing, but it was still entertaining and the kids had a blast. We’ll have to go back for the shows. Thanks for commenting!

  2. New York, New York … there isn’t anything quite like it. Looks like you got to experience both parts of it’s beauty and the realism of living in such a large, cramped, hot, crowded space! Hope you got glimpses that you enjoyed … also makes you happy to be home too! Happy “rest of the summer” with the girls!

  3. We’re so looking forward to seeing you tomorrow and hearing more about your travels. We’ll pop by in the morning if that’s okay. –Shanon & William

  4. “And as much as I believe in burrowing into the place I am; getting to know my neighbours and the square footage (indoor and outdoor) we inhabit, I also know that Ieaving it widens my perception. Like a groundhog who looks up from her hole in the ground, I realize the world is so much bigger than I thought it was.”

    How true and well said!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s