Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Verrazano Bridge Prayer

After thirty years in New York City, I have yet to visit the Liberty Island, upon which stands the Statue of Liberty. I am as much fascinated by its split between New York and New Jersey. Although the courts have awarded much of the island to the State of New Jersey, I join many New Yorkers in smugly noting that Lady Liberty faces New York City.
I frequently pass through Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park as well as Eastern Parkway. Both Prospect Park and Eastern Parkway are gems of urban planning designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. So great is their beauty to me that I am sometimes grateful when a red light gives me the opportunity to study some detail of Olmsted's work.
It has been a long time since I passed over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. Many times I have seen its graceful span lit up in the distance, fed by the various roads leading up to it.
What is so odd about the Verrazano is the manner in which it connects two disparate weather patterns. More than once I have left pouring rain on Staten Island to see dry weather in Brooklyn.
Even in a car, the strong winds over the Verrazano Straits can be fearsome to commuters. In stormy weather, the upper level is often closed.
At one time, my vehicle of choice was a 50cc moped. Under ideal conditions it can travel at New York City Highway speed limits. Traveling on a highway at 50 miles an hour can be very frustrating to people behind you in cars who are accustomed to going seventy miles an hour.
Fear of triggering road rage is one of the reasons that I upgraded to a larger motorcycle.
One winter evening, I crossed the Verrazano on my moped. The expansion joints alone are always unpleasant to traverse. I never get used to the slight wobble on my bike as I pass over them. That night I was more watchful than usual for black ice, the invisible patches of ice on roads that can cause even automobile drivers to lose control. The further I got onto the bridge, the stronger the wind became. Soon, I felt the wind pounding on my clothes and helmet. My fear grew as the wind actually started pushing my moped out of my lane of traffic. I compensated by leaning into the wind. It felt as though an invisible wall were holding me upright. A serene calm took over me as I realised the gravity of the situation. It was almost as if I were riding next to myself, describing the wind and how to safely navigate it. The last time I had felt such stillness was when I was caught in a strong undertow on a Cape Cod beach in Massachusetts. On the shore, my father waved a bath towel at me with desperate urgency as life guards rowed out to meet me. It was only from their frightened faces that I derived any sense of panic.
The thought occurred to me that the wind presented a serious danger. Underneath my helmet, I prayed that the wind would stop. It seemed that the wind only got stronger. Thoughts of Jonah on the high seas flashed through my mind as I negotiated with the wind.
"G-d lessen the wind." I prayed. "G-D LESSEN THE WIND". I shouted in what was really a whisper amid the traffic. The wind kept pushing at me, fraying my sense of calm and distorting my sense of time. Finally I said in desperate resignation "G-d please lessen the wind. Lessen the wind or strengthen me against it". My calm returned as I approached the token booth and the highway behind him.
"Thank you G-d". I said as I picked up speed on the highway. The words of my prayer echoed in my mind then and now. "G-d, lessen the wind or strengthen me against it."
Today, when I look at a problem, I look at the elements that are beyond my control. Then I look at what strengths I possess to deal with the situation. Whether I am dealing any sort of difficulties, my desperate words on the Verrazano Bridge still echo today. "G-d lessen the wind, or strengthen me against it.".
Copyright 2008 by thewinterriders.com. Photo by M Borowick found on creative commons search engine

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