Friday, August 29, 2008

Warren Street

I walked up a different street yesterday, on my way back home from the subway. It was two streets south of my usual route and so perhaps it felt foreign. It was only Warren Street.

Something happened very quickly as I walked down the sidewalk, pointing west, towards the sun still far from setting but a particular, late golden colour, with light streaming toward me at a slant through the trees. The trees were big. It was very quiet. It felt like the enchanted forest in a book like CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. The place between two worlds. Cars lined both sides of the street. There was no one else. The trees felt high and old, and seemed to expand and empty from themselves. But the bluestone beneath my feet made it obvious, to me, anyway that I was in Brooklyn. The natural progression of seeing where my feet were was the unconsciously uttered conclusion: Then I must be at home?

I then expected a reluctantly reassuring, answer: Yes, I am: I am safe; no one is going to mug me, jump me, attack me; I can walk these bluestone sidewalks at any hour; I have lived here for nearly a decade and I love this place (don't I?) and know it and this street is two blocks from my terrace and I am home.

But that's not what happened.

At home?

There was no answer. Just a big space and the late afternoon light. Not yes, not no. Just the empty street.

Grab the right ring and jump.*

Last night in bed, for a few seconds, I panicked. My parents are going to die. I will be left one-sided with nothing to know the other half and nowhere to put half of me. And then we will die. And it will end. And it is brutal.

I understand that some people have children in order to be less terrified. And so it is perpetuated.

* "Now the truth was that Uncle Andrew, who knew nothing about the Wood Between the Worlds, had quite the wrong idea about the rings. The yellow ones weren't "outward" rings and the green ones weren't "homeward" rings; at least not the way he thought. The stuff of which both were made had come from the wood. The stuff in the yellow rings had the power of drawing you into the wood; it was stuff that wanted to get back to its own place; the in-between place. But the stuff in the green rings is stuff that is trying to get out of its own place; so that a green ring would take you out of the wood into a world."

The Magican's Nephew, CS Lewis


  1. Ow, what a serious post. You forgot to mention that some day, the universe will come to an end, too. ;-)

    But don't worry, we've got plenty of time before all that happens. And I intend to use it well...

  2. There are two homes in life: our childhood home and, later on, where our heart is.

    As for having children, my perspective is different. It is the day I had one that I became terrified, because suddenly there's an entity you love more than yourself, walking around, VULNERABLE, UNPROTECTED, MORTAL, and that is more terrifying than my own end.

  3. I understand the feeling you had. One day many years ago I remember walking back to my office after lunch. As I stepped through the revolving doors, I was suddenly overtaken by this amazing clarity that one day, I will be dead. Just like that. Though I was not panicked, I do recall it was the most solid, clearly formed thought regarding my own death. Recognizing one's mortality is one of the surest indicators that one is a fully formed adult.

    Vince is right. The best approach is to use well the time we have.

  4. Moving and profound. You are so right. Do what we will, the inevitable stares us down at the most unexpected times. The grave awaits each man. not to dwell on it...

  5. I clicked on comments to tell you that you are not alone in those feelings of panic and I see that... you are not alone in those feelings.

    And I too love the Narnia books, and the Magician's Nephew is brilliant in the way it touches on loss.

  6. My dears, and fellow panickers. Thank you!


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