Seen along the East River pathway near Carl Schurz Park, after Winter Storm Stella.
walking the winding
east river path
just after snowfall
a few people
scattered here and there
weak, distant lights
straining to be seen
right where the path turns
i see a ballerina
her arms fighting
the pull of the wind
though she has no audience
line up to watch her
and the river reflects
her every move
as i approach her stage
she catches my eye
stopping, for a moment
than completing her pirouette
twirl, bend, twirl, bend, twirl
moving gracefully into the night
just the silence of the city
and the crunch of the snow
beneath her feet
I captured this photo late last summer in Hell’s Kitchen. The pigeons looked so peaceful silhouetted in the afternoon light, high above the Theater District rush.
I was noticing pigeons everywhere that summer. One in particular, the largest I’d ever seen, had made its home on the ledge outside my kitchen window. I’d turn on the stove for coffee Saturday mornings and it would greet me by fluttering its wings – revealing a streak of silver that each time I’d mistake for a flash of light. Each time I was surprised a bird could emit such radiance.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago I haven’t seen that pigeon in months. Where did he go? He hasn’t traveled south. Unlike other birds, pigeons don’t migrate – once they find a nesting place they will stay year round. Pigeons will always return to the location imprinted on their brains upon birth.
Maybe he’s been there all along but his feathers are dulled by the city dust. Or maybe he flutters his wings but there’s no light in the sky for his silver streaks to reflect, nothing to make me turn.
Sometimes exposure to one environment gets me thinking about the opposite of that environment. It’s strange, really. It’s the beginning of summer and I’m sitting here thinking about winter. Come winter and I’ll be thinking about summer. And not even in the sense that I’m longing for that season – I am definitely not longing for winter- just pondering it. If I’m spending time in a city I’ll imagine dusty country roads. If I’m out in the Midwest I’ll close my eyes each night to city lights. (Maybe that’s from longing.)
I guess it makes sense. As a creative writer, I write best from experience, but even better when I have some distance from that experience. Still, doesn’t it seem contradictory to remove oneself from the environment your writing pictures, develops, scrutinizes? I don’t like the idea, but I guess I have time to figure out what works best for me.
I mentioned in a previous post that the poet I’m most inspired by is Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate. One of his poems I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is called “In January.” I love the way Kooser develops atmosphere in this poem, creating shapes and sounds from intangible things like light and age.
Only one cell in the frozen hive of night
is lit, or so it seems to us:
this Vietnamese café, with its oily light,
its odors whose colorful shapes are like flowers.
Laughter and talking, the tick of chopsticks.
Beyond the glass, the wintry city
creaks like an ancient wooden bridge.
A great wind rushes under all of us.
The bigger the window, the more it trembles.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) plagues six of every 100 people in the United States, according to statistics by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The main age of onset of SAD is between 18 and 30 years old. The disorder is related to seasonal variations of light (or lack thereof).
No wonder it affects so many students at Notre Dame.
That’s a pretty dramatic shift of scenery. Beautiful, as the white pathway and snow-covered dome are. But best viewed through a photograph or the warmth of a LaFortune window.
Check out The Observer‘s archives on Seasonal Affective Disorder here.