Archive for May 15th, 2012

Street fairs and vendors– the smell of grilled hot dogs and corn and sweet fried dough. Fresh juicy mango slices, melted ice cream, red and blue popsicle dye, all gloriously sticky on flushed cheeks. Frisbees, beer and grass-stained towels in the Park. Outdoor seating at every Cafe and Restaurant worth its salt, the tables crammed with eggy brunches and sweating glasses of Chardonnay.

It seems that all of New York  surges with a joyful energy when the weather warms up! You feel it in your veins and your head is punch-drunk with it.

And then the rub–it’s not actually all of New York. It’s never all of New York.

I apologize for the cryptic message at the end of yesterday’s post, but I couldn’t quite admit that I was feeling a little blue after such a fabulous weekend, or understand why. The answer didn’t come to me until I finally started to let go of my racing thoughts and drift to sleep.

 I realized that it was the very recognition of the euphoria around me this weekend that made me utterly aware of those who were not participating. 

As I walked the streets on this lusciously sunny weekend, I felt like I noticed more homeless men and women than ever before. My usual eyes-on-the-prize pace and focus were loosened by the heat. I couldn’t block out their pleas–in fact, their voices seemed magnified. They echoed.

New York is not a city of moderation. It’s a city of contrasts, of black and white. The highs are SO high and the lows SO low, and nowhere is this more evident than in the difference between the haves and the have-nots.

In the winter, the entire city is miserable. We all hunker down, running from point A to point B, blinder-shielded by our own need to get through the ugliest time of the year.

The cold punishes everyone, leaving no room to think about OTHER.

Summer is a completely different story. The sun comes out and the days extend and the streets become a place to exist and linger–but you’re joining a crew that calls them home year-round. 

In the summer, there’s no excuse–no desire!–to move briskly in the thick heat.

And as a result, it is much more difficult to ignore those who are always there, suffering. As you deign to slow the rush, and the streets become part of the day’s activity, you’re also sharply confronted by the poverty around you.

My leisurely walks this weekend were punctuated with reminders of the city’s dizzying, inescapable disparities. Why am I allowed so much pleasure? Why is it denied them?

And that’s why, as much as I reveled in the energy and excitement of this summer preview, I had trouble shaking the faint sensations of guilt and sadness.

Now that I’ve put a name on my feelings, I know how to manage them. The homeless are as much a part of NYC as all of that good stuff, and any New Yorker will tell you you’ll drown in misery if you allow it to get you down. I’ve lived here alongside those in need for four years, and I figure that as long as I am a positive, productive person in society I am giving them as much as anyone can.

But BOY, does it help to have my new weekly shift at Animal Haven!

This weekend, I reaaally needed it.

Animal Haven is an incredibly well-run organization, and the rate of turnover speaks for itself. I would guestimate that at least half of the dogs that were there last Sunday were gone by the time I arrived yesterday!

My college year as an SPCA Adoption Counselor was one of my happiest to date, and now that I’m volunteering at Animal Haven, I can’t believe how long I went without something like this in my life!

Once or twice a week, I’m able to experience the unadulterated joy that accompanies each adoption and the unconditional, grateful love of so many animals–irregardless of the world outside.

As much as I can be “over” what I was feeling this weekend, I am.  And I think my hours at the shelter contributed to that in large part. I look forward to this being a healing place for me AND the sweet animals, through every kind New York season and challenge.

My personal answer to the blinding light and bottomless darkness of this incredible city–my summer in the winter, my love and hope from despair.

What’s yours?


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