Sometimes life is frenetic in the south. Mostly because we let little things gain importance and overwhelm us. Rather than seek peace and quiet, I’d prefer a visit back home to New York. Sometimes I honestly miss the taxis and even the pigeons ( as long as they maintain a respectful distance).People expect New York to be fast paced and overgrown because that’s its reputation. But, though the pace in the city is the composite of emotion, energy, and possibility, it creates a pulse that lets you know you are alive and that at any moment you might find yourself traveling in a new direction . Inspiration and wonder thrive while its sounds, sights, and rhythm revive the soul.
Tag Archives: New York
It’s warm this morning and survivor leaves are raining down in droves. A Thursday morning in November, the newspaper is fatter than the last several months combined , to tempt us to prepare to shop. The Turkey Day Parade from New York is on the television. I am so grateful that it seems almost normal and yet there are so many in my home town and nearby that are wondering how they made it to this day and if next year will feel closer to their normal.This morning there are no turkey smells in our house. My husband is working this morning because the March of Dimes( his passion and employer) is coordinating a race to raise funds to prevent infant prematurity and birth defects. Later in the day ,we will visit friends because our children are far from home and for the past 25 years we have lived away from our family. Hopefully this doesn’t sound like whining, because I’m not sad. Holidays are so filled with expectation and tradition that it is too easy to get caught up in details and the way you “should” celebrate. When this holiday began, it was a way to share the food available and to appreciate others. Obviously in some ways it has morphed into a day of overindulgence, football and strategizing for shopping convoys. So where does this take me? A day to focus on what makes life fulfilling. For me it includes my family, the children I’m trusted with each day, friends near and far, the time to pursue creative opportunities, and the results of having taken a leap of faith with this blog and meeting so many new friends. The challenge to continue to write and post with some regularity is inspiring. The funny thing is that I sit at my computer with an idea and the words flow from the keys. I can’t explain how it happens but I am so grateful. It also lets me realize that as full as my life is, I need to share more and better. To meet needs that are unspoken and unnoticed , to give without being asked , these are areas in which I need to grow. This photo I’ve posted is an old paneled door on which I’ve layered a photo of a colonial kitchen, a blend of the old to create something new. That opportunity exists for us each day.
Growing up in New York, one of my places of refuge as a child was an old stone building on East Sixty-seventh street. Two heavy wood doors with big brass handles opened into a world of color and silence. The marble entry hall floor was cool and patterned. The smooth old wooden bannisters on the stair, had been polished by the hands of generations of children before me. A private club, for which admittance and independence depended on the ability to sign your name. Offering a place to think and indulge in fantasy, free for the taking to all who clutched the card . The library. The tall walnut shelves tickled the ceiling and a rolling ladder gave access to even its highest reaches. I often thought I could live there comfortably. Unfortunately,the chance to move in never presented itself, and I was probably too much of a rule-follower to risk sneaking an overnight stay. What if I lost my privileges ?!! After visiting the main branch on Fifth Avenue, although not nearly as cozy as my branch, I realized it had the lock on grandeur. Imagine being guarded by lions! What a home that might have been!
A warm September Sunday morning found us searching for the tugboat graveyard that I’d read about on several abandoned building sites. In New Jersey for a short weekend visit, my husband obligingly helped me search the outer part of Staten Island for the graveyard at Arthur Kill. We found Witte Marine, the salvage company that bought the boats back in the sixties, but that Sunday there was no way to gain admittance .The property is presently known as Don John Iron and Scrap Metal .
Farther down the road, we spied a boat skeleton out in the distance.Finding a spot to park, we crossed the road to find a worn and weed covered stone staircase.At the top of the five steps stood a small family cemetery that dated back to the 1700’s, and beyond that- a sea of reeds.
The sun’s heat intensified the stench , and using the reeds as a solid surface enabled us to cross the slimy goop that was mudlike in texture but suggested something more sinister and chemical.It sucked at your shoes and I have to believe anything that succumbed is still buried beneath. Part way to the water, you could see the carcasses of several tugs.My husband found a stopping point and waited loyally while being devoured by insects.
I ventured forward, taking big high steps to flatten reeds while sliding and juggling two cameras. The remains of the tugs were identifiable but without waders and a crowbar, I wasn’t able to get much closer.
Changing strategies , I veered to the left towards a wooden hulk . As I looked for planks to aid my mud-crossing, two other adventurers appeared and we headed there together. They were more limber and scurried up the side of the boat. I worried that my husband would need a transfusion due to mosquito bites and might not come after me if I fell through the deck.
Eerie and beautiful in the same moment,although difficult to capture the atmosphere , these photos document our visit. I am not sure how many more ships can be seen by kayaking in the Arthur Kill or by gaining entrance into the salvage yard.The numbers I have read indicate at least several hundred recorded.The challenge of the graveyard partially met, I am anxious to return in cooler weather with more appropriate gear.
From preliminary research, I learned that one of the tugs still visible was the Abram S. Hewitt, a fireboat built in 1903. It had played a role in the rescue attempts as the command center at the burning of the General Slocum in 1904. On June 15,1904, over 1,000 women and children perished in the fire on their way to a day’s picnic outing on Long Island. It was the largest loss of lives in New York until September 11.
Also found in the graveyard is the New Bedford which served as a troop transport during the Battle of Normandy. The other ships have their stories also. Buried in the mud lies the history of New York and beyond.
It turns out that the boats cannot be moved or salvaged because populations of sea life took up residence in the remains and now they are a protected environment by law.
The tiny graveyard sits between the polluted waters and a busy road.It is the resting place of early settlers of Staten Island and is known as The Blazing Star Cemetery. The community was named Blazing Star for a ferry service that ran from the pier at the Witte Salvage Yard across the bay to New Jersey in the early 1800’s. The surviving headstones , beautifully carved and delicate, date from before the Revolutionary War, but that’s for another story.
oboylephoto.com/boatyard/index2.htm ( incredible black and white photos of the area from 2004)
http://www.the freelibrary.com – wrecks of NY Harbor