Piers offer a safe intimacy to those of us afraid of the water. A dalliance from a distance. It ventures out just far enough to give us the illusion that we too can partake in the pleasures of the water body. It fulfills our sense of adventure while ensuring our relative safety. I love to go onto piers for this reason—this sense of adventure, a beckoning to something unknown, yet to be discovered. Piers take me “far-out”, although in reality piers are hardly that far out into the body of water, but for a non-swimmer it will do.
Piers are voyeur-like, almost. But then, is it wrong to want to be just a voyeur of life? To go only far as to see what lies beyond, or as far as the ordained boards can take you? What if this is all that is available to you? There is a certain comfort that comes with safety and limited options. Is it wrong to long for this?
Piers are half-way bridges. Bridges to wherever our imagination dares to take us. (Sometimes I wonder who determines how far out a pier needs to extend before the railing is put up.) These half-way bridges offer introspection on our journeys. An invitation to view the wide expanse of water (the world) from the safety of land’s extension. A place to reflect, regroup, and decide the next steps. On a pier, you are given a choice: to go farther than you’ve been before, to go further on the journey. Or to retreat to land and safety. Neither is bad or good. Neither should be shunned. Sometimes both are needed for the journey.
Since piers are rarely ever literal jump-off points, how does one negotiate the returning to shore with a resolve to go farther/further vs. the returning to shore with contentment and appreciation for safety, and comfort?
I am at Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Finding the pier here closed off for construction, I settle instead for one of those quintessential park benches facing the Atlantic and reflect. I let the closed pier be my inspiration for moving from the voyeur and consumer that I’ve been into the writer that I am. As quite a few of my writer friends say—I have been in the soak cycle in the washer. The pier closed though it is, invites me to share what I’ve been soaking in.
First I want to give a major shout-out to my seminary friend, MG who graciously agreed to open her mental and physical space to someone who had been on active duty (not to diminish the traditional connotation of the phrase). I crashed and ate and slept for four days. My eyes lit up on Day 5 when we walked into a Walmart (ok, don’t judge). Retail therapy never felt this good!
I also want to give another major shout-out to my friend LD who also opened her home to me and allowed me to house-sit for her, thus giving MG a break from me and giving the “sprawler” in me a space to spread out. Having just met LD at Yari Yari, I have to say I am living proof that forging partnerships are worthwhile.
Since this is technically my first long visit to the East Coast, I have been studying maps of the northeast. I never noticed how tightly the states up here all fit together. I have been re-acquainted with allergies. Trees, flowers, grass, all freshly in bloom, have assaulted my sinuses. My body, weakened by years of allergy-free living, is rebelling.
I had the gift of a few days in Cornwall, CT and the Berkshires (think Aburi with more green or think the stuff you see on U.S. postcards). Both boasted such green that the city girl in me couldn’t help taking off my shoes and skipping in the grass (for real!) My first night there, it sank in that I was away from Ghana and all that it had come to mean. It was also the first time I had had a room to myself in close to 8 months! I was missing my dear aunt’s funeral and couldn’t be present for my cousin. I had left family and a now-tightly knit posse of women friends. I was back in the U.S without a blueprint for my life (big shocker!). I was in the city where David was buried. I found myself sobbing on the floor of my room at the B&B I was staying at. Everything came back. It seemed that once free from all the constraints of “holding-it-together” I just couldn’t bear the grief any longer.
I survived the sobbing to return to NYC!!! OMG!!! I don’t think I can say enough how much in love I am with the city (doing the Antenna dance). The first few weeks, rain and chilly temperatures threatened the equator-girl in me, but I stuck it out with the only sweater I borrowed and now it’s hot and sunny! I have been soaking it all in: going on brisk walks in the morning, saying good morning to most people (minus the pervy old men who leer). Sitting on the Central Park benches and journaling. “Googling” feverishly to find my next free adventure. I visited the famed Macy’s on Herald Square and let me assure you, the shopaholic in me was overwhelmed if there is such a thing. I’ve done the Times Square and Union Square and Highline. I’ve been blessed to see Alvin Ailey, Cherrie Moraga, and Angelique Kidjo, some of my favorite people. I’ve got 5 weeks more and I’m sure there’ll be other celebrity appearances. (Five weeks because I got a job (yes!) in Massachussetts and I start in August.)
In the past month, I have been re-united with 6 friends from my Seminary days in Berkeley. It’s been so wonderful to have them all visit NYC at the exact same time I’m here. I hadn’t seen some of them in 2 years. Running around a city I was fast learning to love was exhilarating to say the least. I’ve been blessed to also reconnect with two of my former students, some Yari Yari sisters, and a few cousins. All in all, people who know it’s my first time in the city have been rolling out the welcome carpet.
As I’ve gone around, I’ve also been comparing attitudes of Black people here vs. on the continent (Ghana really). I’m going to save it for the next post because this one is already long.
Tears brim as the sharp wind stings my eyes and flirts with my cardigan which I pulled on halfway through blogging this post. In the meantime a fog has rolled in and the sun is making an effort to play Hide-go-Seek with it. Here I sit on this Coney Island boardwalk deciding that upon returning from my “pier” I will go ride one of the speed cars. Onward to my next adventure, taking me farther and further. Join me, or find a pier and embark on your own musings! Happy Summer!
10 thoughts on “Piers of Life”
You give a lovely description of being on a pier. In the UK, piers are often grand Victorian structures in seaside towns, that have fallen into disrepair. They are generally associated with being an outdated form of entertainment, but have a quirky quality of their own.
Thanks Steve. Quirky is a good word although I think around these parts, our piers are far from that.
Some though, have fallen into disrepair as well. I am yet to run into one that’s a grand Victorian structure. 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Dear lady, I love the vitality of this post. Energy, joy, grief, excitement — it’s all in here and I love it! I second the piers too. They’ve always seemed magical (and scary) to me. What narrow boards hold us above the depths.
I love your last sentence! It’s so poetic. May I borrow it? 🙂
Good to see you in person the last two weeks!
Certainly. 😀 I’m so glad we got to reconnect. There is nothing like face to face. 🙂
(it’s a sound that says yes! huu like moo with an ‘h” but I can’t spell it to save my life) 😀
(Also, how crazy is that, that we were both in NY?!)
another affirmative response ;D
Great way to look at piers!