I got off the airplane at JFK last week and the first thing I noticed was that warm, breezy air wafting around me, tinged slightly with the scent of jet fuel, but warm and welcoming all the same. Hello, New York.
This old view, from a highway in Queens, used to make me gape every time I came around the bend. Well, it still does. Doesn't matter that I don't live there anymore. New York rising up from the ground like a mirage, steel and glass shimmering in the afternoon sun, it's enough to make you cry. Or laugh. In all of its improbable, breathtaking beauty.
From the cold, hard edges of buildings.
To the soft, pink petals of the blossoming trees.
New York is for cheese-makers.
New York is for dreamers.
New York is for patriots and for visitors.
New York has lots of hidden messages in its nooks and crannies and crevices, waiting to make you smile.
The breadth of its sky is unparalleled. It feels different than anywhere else: huge and unlimited.
I didn't pay much attention to food this week; I was distracted by all the people, the streets, the smells, and, of course, my friends. Still, this lobster roll stood out: pure, unadulterated deliciousness. Better than anything I'd ever eaten in Maine. Isn't that just like New York? Always doing it a little bit better?
The first few days back in New York were hard. I had tears in my eyes on every street corner. Felt like I was in a glass box watching my old city, my old life, pass me by. I saw everything I'd given up right in front me, literally close enough to touch. The energy and exhilaration of just being in New York; well, I'd missed both. So much.
Yet, as the days passed, and the rawness subsided, I started to feel more peaceful. Look at this city! I thought. I was so lucky. I am so lucky. I got to live here. This was my home. And in a way, it still is.
I think, later, when this year has passed and I can look back with some measure of perspective and distance, this trip will stand out as something important. Not just a quick vacation to see friends, but some kind of turning point, a moment in time in which everything started to fall into place.
It was also immeasurably inspiring. I don't know yet how to write about this without dissolving into a puddle, but my friends in New York, well, they really inspire me. They make me proud to know them. Kind, funny, interesting, smart: they made me want to do better, write more, laugh louder. I wish I could have told them all in person just how much they mean to me, but this blog will have to do.
The world. Is what they mean to me.
So, taking leave was hard. Of course it was. I buried my head into my book on the way to the airport and refused to look out the window. I didn't want to see those train tracks passing by, the gleam of yellow cabs, the sheen and shine of the city as my train pulled away, pulled me away.
But, the thing is, I got to come back to this. A pink sky, an apartment to fill with memories, the smell of lilacs and earth in the street, rain drops on the roof last night. Leaving New York is never easy, as REM once sang. But coming home to Berlin just is.