I was given a book and I broke its spine.
It is a gold book of haikus with a lacquered cloth cover. It says “Lotus Blossoms” in clear silver type on the outside and “To Molly, Happy 2008!” on the inside. It came from some family friends, and I cracked its back about a year ago. Not having much of a taste for poetry (and being even less interested in cryptic absurdity), I am surprised by how often I turn to it for advice or inspiration.
Tonight, these lines, by Buson, seem appropriate:
Icy winter night…
I unfreeze the writing-brush
with my two good teeth
Last week it snowed in New York City. Oh, we’d had spritzes in early December, but these fat flakes were the season’s first real snowfall. It started while I was at work. I sit by a large window, and the blinds are controlled automatically by our facilities manager, who has them timed to go up and down based on the amount of glare we have on our computer screens. When the blinds and the snow began falling at the same time, I was ordered to sprint down to the manager and request a clear view of the windows so we could watch.
The first snow I ever saw here was the day I arrived last year. I was staying with a friend who lives in Turtle Bay, a small neighborhood in Manhattan. She took me for a walk through the city at night. Some of the Christmas decorations were still up, and we went from couture feather dresses at Lord and Taylor’s to glittery gummy bear statues outside the Gap. But my favorite part was the Diamond District. We turned down a sidestreet and were surrounded by stores devoted only to diamond jewelry. I looked down and noticed that suddenly the sidewalks had a high content of mica, making them sparkle. At the same moment, it began to snow icy crystals, the kind that burn when they hit your skin, but look beautiful passing by.
Between the shimmering jewels, sparkling sidewalks and flashing snowflakes, I felt truly overwhelmed. For me, being overtaken by curiosity and joy while teetering on the brink of not coping is a New York-only experience.
It’s a city that feels like it’s seen it all. There’s no crime gruesome enough, no sound loud enough, no street busy enough to really blow a New Yorker out of the water with novelty. But when it snows — when it really snows — the sidewalks get covered. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can make the first set of footprints on a few squares. And when that happens, you are a pioneer. You are thrown back to New York’s first days, when people tramped, instead of shuffling. I’m prone to romanticizing the past (who isn’t?), and I’m at my blissful worst when the snow stills the city and I can break my own path.
It’s almost as satisfying as a great winter haiku.