Thursday, October 22, 2015

Middle distance

As that new building goes up I've been watching my eyes skittering about the scene, like a Buddhist watches his monkey mind. The first impulse is for them to head straight for where the Empire State Building used to be visible. I delightedly alight on the last little tip of its spire but it's no more than a twig. It's a little farcical to pay it such heed, really. Still, the gaze bounces back in aggrieved affront, even as it notes the bright colors of the construction workers' vests and their insectlike movements. It's amazing that they can be made out at this distance. At that point the gaze, not wanting to admit itself interested in the unwanted view, roams around aimlessly in the valley between it and here, disconsolate and a little peeved, finding nothing to rest on because it's mourning a lost thing and not looking for a new one. I feel it's also trying to get a sense of the scale of the new view opening up, at once curious and resentful about the inevitable adjustment: what will seem near, what far? What sort of skyline - always a work of chance, sometimes the more magical for that - will come together on the valley's far side? Can it be that I'm looking forward to finding out?
An Empire State Building view was a cool thing to have, and I always pointed it out to visitors, but I didn't move here to have it - I told that to visitors, too - and wouldn't have: what a trite, tacky concern that would be! I used to live on the ground floor, which of course had no view (just a garden). I had no idea Manhattan was visible from here at all. When first discovering the view, on moving up here, I was even a little nonplussed: hadn't I left Manhattan for Brooklyn? But I enjoyed the happenstance of it, as if the Empire State Building were following me! With time I took it for granted, as one does every privilege. It faded into the rest of the scene, a point of passing interest but not the biggest or most interesting thing. The construction has obscured my view of it but my fixation on the construction has obscured the rest of my view. Only today, when I went out on the fire escape to take my picture, did I take in the autumn leaves of the trees below, or our wall of flaming foliage.

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