February is a curious month. It has Valentine’s Day, the first tulips and the long President’s Day weekend in the course of its days, so in addition to not being January it seems as if there is much to recommend it. It is the shortest month (though this year is one day longer – we leap), yet seems the longest. In the Northwest, February feels to be the heart of winter. I try not to make precipitous decisions in February. It is always the month I want to ditch my book club, drop out of critique group, quit my job, stay home and order flower seeds. But I do none of these things. This I guess is the wisdom of age, though honestly, I should order my seeds by the end of the month. I just have no real conviction that spring will actually arrive.
February is an excellent month to get out of town, so over the long weekend we did just that, and New York City cooperated with sunshine and temps in the 40’s. Just walking in the sun was a tonic, but looking and seeing made of our time a holiday.
The water tower maintenance truck with its weathered, hand-painted sign; the carved facades of the crosstown neighborhoods on the upper east side; the Highline in winter with the Hudson sparkling in the distance; the deep pit being excavated at its south end which we stared into for the longest time, trying to figure out its mystic construction and whether the cast concrete piers were being dug up or driven in; (this is marriage to an engineer – endless fascination with infrastructure). We walked across Central Park and spied cocoons masquerading as pine cones, were tempted by the Ramble and tried to look up trees on our TreesNY app (forget Central Park – the City arborist data doesn’t extend to its thicket). And then there were the museums.
The Met is my first love. I adore her plenitude, the lobby with its enormous sprays of fresh flowers – this visit it was forced cherry blossom displays the size of dwarf trees, the ancient and contemporary living cheek by jowl, and all the artwork from the centuries in between.
My new tradition is to visit the Valazquez portrait of Juan de Pareja. I remember how Elizabeth Borton de Trevino’s book, I Juan de Pareja affected me as a young reader as I admire the scumbled white of Juan’s collar and look into his proud, grave eyes. I can understand why the author was driven to know more about this man’s story.
The new Islamic Galleries at the Met are stunning. I found myself snapping pictures of objects with my phone as we moved through the many rooms, tucking away ideas for stories. I just got happier and happier as the day went on, right through lunch in the Tiffany Court, the show of caricatures, the photography exhibit and the enormous and beautifully restored painting of Washington crossing the Delaware in the newly opened American Wing. The Met. My true love.
There were other museums, but a visit to the Museum of the City of New York was a lovely way to end our trip. The Greatest Grid, which documents the master plan for NYC, was fascinating and contained a marvelous watercolor of the plan for Central Park, where we could see the Ramble in all its knotted glory and marvel once again that in the brutal imposition of the grid the vision and will to create Central Park endured.
I highly recommend getting out of town, if only by car to a place nearby. It refreshes, and we still have the rest of February and then March to endure, though each day is a little longer and a little closer to spring.