city flower

When was the last time that you really listened? I don’t mean to a person. That’s a good thing to do, too, but it’s another topic, for another time. What I mean to ask is, when was the last time that you closed your eyes and just listened to the sounds around you? Let’s do it together.

Right now.

I’m serious.

Close your eyes and listen.

Last week I took an afternoon stroll to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s a pretty usual routine for me. When I’ve finally hit my limit for time I can spend inside a dim apartment typing furiously in front of a computer screen, I strap on whatever sandals are nearest by, make sure that I don’t have toothpaste still stuck to the edges of my mouth and that my hair is moderately combed and I venture outside. Emerging from our tiny apartment I’m certain I look something like a mole, blinking and surprised by the sun, but I put one foot in front of the other and begin to walk and before I know it, I’m feeling better. I breathe deeply, and round a few corners and suddenly there they are, the glittering bay and my Promenade. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is perched precariously over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and if you ask me it offers one of the most breathtaking views in all of New York. If you head there at the right time in the evening you’ll see that lower Manhattan looks exactly like Oz. I promise.

The Promenade is the place I go to recharge, re-center, re-whatever it is I’m feeling like I’m lacking. Funnily, last week as I sat there soaking in the mid-September sun and beginning to feel like something that resembled a human being, I closed my eyes and listened. It’s a funny thing about cities. They don’t turn off. Just when you think you’re enjoying a peaceful moment of quiet repose, you realize the city is still buzzing all around you. On this particular day, there were helicopters circling overhead, teenagers shouting to each other, dog tags jingling in a strange rhythm with the patter of their tiny paws. There were car horns on the BQE and backhoes digging around in Brooklyn Bridge Park. There were seagulls squawking and tugboat horns blowing and speedboats doing laps on the East River. It was not quiet but somehow amidst all that racket there was still a sense of calm and comfort, too, in knowing that the world is so much bigger than only me.

Now, what are hearing where you are?