I found them here at first without hunting,
by grace, as all beauties are first found.
The Lillies, by Wendell Berry
Last night, roaming the West Village, we stopped to look at the clouds that were painted onto the clear, cerulean sky. The NYC sky takes a lot of shit-talk from me, but it can be--particularly on warm summer evenings--as beautiful as watercolors.
The clouds were gilded with a warm and cozy amber from the rays of the sun setting over Jersey and the Hudson. The clouds seemed to be still, but if you fixed your gaze on them intently, you could see the feather outcroppings of the cirrus clouds undulating gracefully. Weaving in and out of each other, like the stained glass of a kaleidoscope, the brilliant clouds traveled motionlessly across the azure sky.
Falling towards our feet, like a cloud detached from the firmament, a small white balloon bounced towards us down the street. We followed it, because one of the rules of a roam is that you take turns leading, no one ever leading too much on their own, but always giving way to one another, listening, following, taking turns. Another important rule of a roam is that you follow every impulse to dart down a side street or change directions, or follow something beautiful you catch out of the corner of your eye. You are supposed to wander willy-nilly into corner shops containing curios, into skateboard shops, and under open sidewalk grates with ladders waiting for your footfall. If a balloon falls from above, and starts drifting with almost conscious animation down the street, you simply have to follow it. The wind, and a helpful kick from one of the girls passing by, sent the ball around the corner, back from where we had walked. And the balloon drifted around the corner, cheekily, ricocheting off of buildings and bumping against cars.
Outlandish as it may sound, that balloon led us to our destination.
Our destination was a sushi restaurant. And we had been wandering in circles all around it, but the balloon, which we followed around the corner, floated off as we were wrapped in conversation. The conversation led us up the street and to the door of an unassuming brick building, which held the end of our searching.
It seemed too on the nose to be coincidence, too obvious for reality, which is usually much more subtle in its elegance. Balloons don't just fall out of sunset skies and tell you where to go.
Or perhaps they do, sometimes.
We're always hunting for a course and a direction, but sometimes those directions are just handed to us. They fall into our laps, or in front of our feet, and if we are open to the roam, we can meet them like friends meet on city street corners, smile a heyyyy!, exclaim: I had no idea you lived around here!? And go with them for a drink (or not).
I thought of Mr. Berry's poem about lilies.
How often all the things we're hunting for elude us, but when we simply follow the obvious, obtuse, or incandescent filaments of grace that run through our wanderings, we are led to beauties.
This city, that is so full of grasping, reminds me, again, that all we have to do is open our hands to receive.