A week of beautiful days in New York: spring sun, clear skies, vibrant tulips, blossoming trees, green bursting out everywhere. I walked out of Whole Foods last night at the hour between the sun going down and the night coming on, turned east, and was overwhelmed by a sky of the most wonderful hue – a deep, saturated blue.
The blue was like a warm bath to eyes that spend too much time looking at white light from computer screens, words on glossy paper or newsprint, everything up close and filling my brain with news of things I can’t control and barely affect. Outside, above and around me, all this goes on: the natural world doing what it does, creating beauty whether we notice or not.
The blue is held in front of me between the red brick and cement-colored buildings, rising up in a column that spills over the top of the buildings, behind them, above them, the same intense color everywhere, solid yet translucent. There’s a bright star to the left of the condo building on Chambers and Broadway — no, too low, has to be a plane, hanging, waiting to land. As I walk east, the blue starts to decay, gradually, like a dream you can’t quite hold onto as you wake up, the warmth of it, the tone of it that you want to hold onto forever and it slips away until you can’t remember what it was, who was in it, what they said, what you said, why it mattered.
This sky escapes me that way, changing by the second, dissolving into less blue, a graying to grayish blue, then blue-ish gray, then just gray, fading the way a tulip fades, the bright colors washing out with each day of sunshine, bleaching, fading, becoming translucent, softening, the crisp edges losing their starch.
The tulips this week have reminded me of a day years ago, when I was heading out the door to the street, and a neighbor was walking out with her two black Scotties and her daughter, who must have been around fourteen and had suddenly become achingly beautiful — like those tulips in City Hall Park a week ago: full color, soft, exquisite, lush, breathtaking.
At fifty-five, I look back on that fullness, that soft-yet-taut ripeness, smoothness, shine, and color and realize how fleeting it is. And how beautiful because it is fleeting. I’ve become one of the ones who understand it in a way you can’t when you’re at that fleeting age – an admiration tinged with an ache. Young writers in the past, poets, perhaps understood it younger, because people didn’t live as long, the ripeness didn’t last as long, youth didn’t last as long.
But despite all our exercising, vitamins, organic food, it still doesn’t last, not the real thing. Not that beauty of girls and boys on the cusp of things, of tulips in that week of glory, of the tree on the path behind City Hall with its deep pink buds, small and as solidly pigmented as a paint chip, opening up into blossoms with a pinpoint of deep rose at the center, a wash of soft pink at the base of the white petals, the petals covering the entire tree like a fluffy prom dress — open for spring, open to our eyes, for free, for nothing, because that’s what this tree does, is. At the beginning of spring, after a long winter, a long cold spring, it opens just the same as it always has, for its brilliant, fleeting run.
When the breezes blow down the streets this week, you are caressed by petals — the pink petals of the cherry trees, the white petals of the Callery pears. The edge of the street, next to the curbs, is lined with petals, ribbons of soft pink, like an art installation, like art thrown at your feet. If you’re lucky, you have the time to look, to take it in, to say yes, I see you, and be thrilled about the world going on in spite of us all.
And that’s what I need to do: stop reading the New York Times, the Huffington Post, stop watching Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper, and see, instead, the tulips when they’re perfect, feel the petals touch my cheeks as I cross the street, put the grocery bag down on the sidewalk, let everyone brush by me, and look up at the deep blue sky.