I have observed Jamaica Bay from the driver’s seat of a car inching along the Belt Parkway, through a window of the A Train as it rattles over the two bridges connecting Broad Channel to the rest of Queens, and from inside a roaring passenger jet as it takes off and lands at JFK. By far, my most cherished vantage points are while paddling my kayak or sailing my sailboat upon its waters.
One may experience the sublime anywhere, while walking The High Line, peddling a bike through Central Park, or sitting on a bench at The Cloisters as much as by attending a service at St. John the Divine or any Synagogue, Sanctuary, Mosque or Temple in the city. Among my favorite touch points is the cockpit of a boat, be it a sailboat or a kayak. It is then that I truly, mystically, experience the sublime as mediated through nature and the beauty and isolation that can be encountered in Jamaica Bay.
Far from the honking horns of the Belt, the rattle of the subway, the roar of a jet, and the cacophony of noise, jumble of sights, and mixture of smells that is often urban New York City, while my sailboat or kayak silently floats upon and slices through Jamaica Bay’s waters, I sometimes experience peace that is as much spiritual as psychological as I physically retreat from the mundane urban landscape. After paddling or sailing awhile on some of the more remote parts of the bay, my soul feels refreshed and my mind and senses cleansed as if all the stress of city life has been washed away in the bay’s cleansing waters.
Be it walking or running shoes, bicycle, kayak, canoe, sailboat, or any non-motorized form of transportation that will take you into a through nature, find your own vantage point, some place and activity far removed from video games, cell phones, computers, taxis, subways and buses, far removed from the urban landscape where you too may touch the sublime. You and our city will be better for the experience.
- - -Last night I attended Gotham Writers Workshop free Essay & Opinion Writers Workshop in Bryant Park. Workshop leader Melissa Petro invited those in attendance to take fifteen minutes to write an essay. The above is an edited and revised version of what I wrote. It is also posted on my personal blog Summit to Shore.