Clear skies and bright early morning sunshine greeted this other world we had just begun to explore. So unlike the stormy raging of post-tropical storm Arthur we had left behind sneaking out of Halifax minutes before the airport was closed. Little time was left to reflect on that as we raced through the busy streets of Manhattan in our classic yellow cab. Our long-awaited adventure with our son and daughter-in-law had begun! Nine days lay ahead for us to check off activities on our “must see” list. It quickly became apparent that if we were to find rest and relaxation we would need to be purposeful about it.
First impressions left our minds spinning with dizzy excitement…
…Empire State Building on your left! …That guy just cut us off! …Detour again – thank God for Google map! …What is that awful wailing? Ah, fire truck screams by! …“Comedy show! Come to the comedy show!” as street vendors shove a sign in front of your face. …There’s Tiffany’s…and Bloomingdale’s! …Got to have one of those New York hotdogs from the food truck! …Purse vendors, art vendors, the guy who hung five umbrellas from his vending truck as it began to rain and sold three in one minute – very enterprising fellow! …the chaos of Times Square!! Yikes, get me to a quiet place!!
Now, I’m a small town girl and big bustling over-populated cities are not really my thing. But I was enjoying this…for a short time. I knew I would need to search out a sanctuary for my quiet soul to regroup. My daughter-in-law is the same in this respect so our first outing was to walk the five minutes from our hotel to Central Park. Once we elbowed our way through dozens of hawkers selling tickets for horse-drawn carriages and bicycle-driven rickshaws we strolled through the entrance into shady green peacefulness! All of us breathed a collective sigh of relief as we inhaled the freshness of this glorious oasis in the heart of the never-ending concrete jungle of tangled streets and hurrying bodies. It was exactly what each of us needed for the next few hours.
An oasis can be defined as “a pleasant place that is surrounded by something unpleasant; a time or experience that is pleasant and restful; something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.[i] As we ticked off our list of things to do we made sure time was set aside to find those oases in the midst of our busyness. For me it was…
- Finding a rare spot along the railing of the Staten Island Ferry, feeling the cool breeze through my hair, admiring the Statue of Liberty and the view of the Manhattan skyline
- Enjoying the lush treed environment of the Bronx Zoo, watching the amusing antics of the animals as they helped me find rest
- Falling under the magical spell of Phantom of the Opera
- Putting all fear aside and ascending by elevator sixty-seven floors to the Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Centre; spending ninety minutes taking in the 360 degree panaroma of this amazing city; seeing Central Park from this perspective truly defines its oasis nature
- Entering the silence of the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral and allowing the hymnal words to penetrate my heart
- Losing myself in the history section of Strand Bookstore
- Marveling at the creativity and ingenuity of thousands of volunteers who kept an unused rail-line from becoming another condo complex; the Highline Park is a lovely place to lose yourself for an hour
The Psalmist says, “Be at rest, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”[ii]
We really did have a wonderful time in this city that never sleeps, but I’m so thankful we were able to discover those oases where our hearts could find rest. It was there that God spoke to me in the midst of the noise and chaos of the concrete wilderness that surrounded me.
This morning one of our pastors remarked in his sermon, “We spend more time in the wilderness than at the oasis.”[iii] How true! But it is there in the oasis that we find God in a new way. It is there we learn to depend on Him to guide us through the tangled web of our lives. It is there we discover strength to meet the next challenge.
Until next time,
**All photos taken by James and Kathy Lai