New York, where a heart gets wide open (remembering 9/11)

9-11 memorial

My article about travelling to New York and visiting 9/11 memorial was published on Finding Philothea, and I want to share it here with you as well.

Traveling helps me to get to know another piece of earth, with its beauty and its challenges. Earlier this year in April I visited New York for the first time. I was looking forward to a short holiday and to reconnect with a friend who lives there. Looking back, there were so many highlights that each day was a little lifetime in itself.

I traveled there during Holy Week, so while this big city was impressing me at almost every step, there was another layer that accompanied me over the five days.

I live in Dublin, Ireland, which is small compared to New York. The population of New York City is a little less than Ireland and my native Croatia combined. I’m talking about two countries that would fit into one city. Everything seemed BIG. My hotel room was on the 12th floor, with a view that stretched itself as the sun set over the horizon of tall buildings. I felt so little in New York, but not insignificant. I wanted to learn, I wanted to explore, I wanted to know more about the history of America, I wanted to see the sights, learn about its buildings, its art, its people. The city evoked a thirst I did not even know I had. This city is alive and it increased my own thirst for life and knowledge.

The first evening I went to Broadway. Being tired from a transatlantic flight did not stop me from enjoying the show, “The Great Comet of 1812,” starring my favorite singer, Josh Groban. There were parts in the show when my heart almost exploded wide opened with the powerful singing, and a story that touches one’s depths. Earlier that day my mum told me she baked lots of cakes for Easter, teasing me in a way because I wouldn’t be home with them. “Well, I’ll be in Broadway tonight. I think I’ll be alright.” My friend Christine organized this evening, and while we already have some wonderful shared memories of listening to Josh Groban live, it never gets old to create new ones.

Imperial Theatre, Broadway

However, that was not the only time that New York knocked my heart wide open. I was hoping to visit the September 11th memorial on Good Friday, thinking it would correspond well by bringing the pain of that memory to Jesus as we remember His death. But that day turned out differently, so I had to postpone it until Holy Saturday instead. It was just me that morning trying to find my way from the hotel into the city. It was supposed to be easy, taking a train from my stop all the way to the World Trace Centre. Yet, as it turned out, that train wasn’t running that day, so I had a full-blown New York experience of trying to navigate my way on the Subway. Soon I learned that this was a city below a city. People were helpful and kind. Half of the time they gave me correct directions, while the other half they were well-meaning and friendly but unfortunately their instructions were wrong. After some time I started longing for some daylight and I felt a great sense of achievement when I finally arrived at the World Trade Centre.

Leaving the station, I followed the signs to the 9/11 memorial. Just before the memorial I saw a street sign indicating ‘One way,’ and thought to myself, terrorism is really a one way street. No good comes out of it.

One way-NY

I did not know what to expect. I felt reverence coming to where the Towers were, walking slowly. A lot of people were there and yet it wasn’t noisy but rather solemn, perhaps even calm. And then, sadness overtook me. I simply wanted to cry. There were no words in my head that triggered this reaction. The memorial is dignified and it actually evokes healing. The foundation of the first Tower that I approached goes into the depths, and water gently washes it, like a fountain running deeper into it. Names written on the walls of the foundation gave victims dignity, each name remembered. Occasionally there was a white rose next to a name, and I did not know if seeing that made it more sad or beautiful or if their loved ones put it there. All I wanted to do was cry. But I did not. Not sure why, but I held the tears in, letting them gather like the water that is being gathered in the depth of the foundation of each Tower.

I carried those tears with me the whole day. That evening, full of impressions and tired after walking a lot, I went to Mass. I was meeting a friend at her church far from where I was that afternoon, so I was a few minutes late. The church was in the dark, because at the Easter Vigil on Saturday the light comes in gradually while the readings are being read, signifying the light of Christ’s resurrection coming into the darkness of this world. I found a seat at the back of the church, sat there and finally I wept. I wept at the loss of life, the wound that this city experienced during the terrorist attack. I wept at what we people sometimes do to each other. I wept because Holy Saturday was a day when shattered hopes were mixed with Jesus’ redeeming work; while the Resurrection was happening, the disciples were in grief. I wept because the Alleluia that we would sing that night comes out of such deep sadness, as the one that New York experienced. Alleluia does not come out of joy, but out of pain as it is being redeemed by the Lord. I wept because all of this, both out of gratitude to the Lord for new life, as well as the pain. I wept for this city, for its needs, for America and all that needs to be put right. As I wept I offered silent prayers, beyond words, to the Lord, and I thanked Him for the light that conquers death, for hope that rises out of despair, for love that is stronger than hate.

Today as we remember 9/11, I am not in New York, but my memory of that city, of its vastness, its beauty, its story that touched me, stays with me in such a way as if I have met a person whose scars are part of their wisdom. There are more memories from my trip to be told, but New York certainly knows how to touch someone’s heart.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 10th September 2017; first published on Finding Philothea)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

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Seeking beauty

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Beauty is the inner quality of the soul. It shines from within, like a sun whose rays reach far away corners of humanity.

Do not seek beauty only with your eyes, seek with your heart as well.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, April 2012)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Wild

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This life is wild, unpredictable like the wind at times….even when you have a dream, and the stubborn inner certainty to follow it, still you can never know all the roads where you will be led on. Sometimes we don’t even know if those roads are right, or wrong, until perhaps later on. Even beauty is wild, goodness too, in this world that sometimes doesn’t value either of the two. I want to take all the goodness that I can and throw it in the face of the ugliness out there, all the terrors and wars and ways in which we walk over the treasures in someone else’s heart, oh if I could be that wild to stand up and say, ‘no, not here, you cannot walk over these people’s dreams. Here is a mirror, go and have a look, there is a treasure hiding in your heart, yes you forgot that you are good! Stop that war, stop that fight, rather take this mirror, and show others who they are’.

Horses, I always think of horses when I think of being wild. Wild horses, running free, untamed, knowing that freedom is their destiny. I suppose there is grace in their ‘wild’, there is pose, and elegance. They are who they are meant to be, and while I call them beautiful, in their wildness there is peace. Oh if people could learn from it!

© Iva Beranek (February 2017) #wildheartwriters

Solitude

beauty

I like to roam in nature or around the city, with a camera around my neck, looking for scenery to open itself up before me and present me with a new version of beauty. Solitude, most people say, are those times when we are alone, but I think it is more than that. It is a quality of presence as we go about our day, a connection with everything, and with God, but also with oneself. It is those times when we don’t need to pretend. Sometimes solitude is alluring and pleasant, other times it burns like a transforming fire. It teaches of the essence of who we are, created and loved, but also imperfect. If we really want to get to know someone we need to spend time with them. Same is true for getting to know ourselves. We need to spend time with what is in us, with our thoughts, inner movements, experiences, everything that we are, even our contradictions. It may seem attractive to run from one thing to the next, avoiding to meet, befriend ourselves. But in those moments, rare or not rare, perhaps depends on the day, when we decide to stop, take a deep breath, we let ourselves be, in those moments peace slowly starts to enter in. I have to say, solitude is not always easy, it shows me the cracks in my very own being. But it also shows me not to be afraid of them. It shows me the road to open up to God even those exiled areas of my heart.

Solitude is, however, not only about self-exploration. For me, being alone is an invitation to create. I hardly ever write when there are lots of people around. One or two, I don’t mind. Or if I got to a coffee shop and bring the computer along, I don’t mind lots of people passing by, but I still have this quality of presence that helps me to focus on the ‘paper’ in front of me. Whether the means is the camera, writing, prayer, reflection, solitude provides this unique focus on what truly matters, and has the ability not to be overly distracted with the rest.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 8th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek
Photo challenge, Daily Post: Solitude

Prayer

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my prayer was
like
drawing water from
an empty well
I found nothing in it
but tears and
despair

you stood by my side
took my hand
“leave the bucket behind”,
you said,
and you led me
to your empty grave

I looked into
your eyes
not knowing what to do
“this stone is rolled over
for you,
tell me, what you
want me to do”

‘make me free
take what I can no longer
carry with me
show me that in my soul
you can turn death
into life
all the sickness that I
carry inside
heal,
like your wounds
were healed
after your terrible
dark night,
bring me fully
into life’

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 24th August 2016)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Sometimes you manage to catch a quote

“You forget your life after a while, life you had before. Things you cherish and hold dear are like pearls on a string. Cut the knot, they scatter across the floor, rolling into dark corners never to be found again. So you move on. And eventually you forget what the pearls even looked like. At least you try.”*

Often I watch a film, whether in cinema or elsewhere, and hear amazing few lines, wishing to be able to write them down, but they disappear too fast so I commit them to my vague recollection. Most of the time they are enjoyed for a moment and then simply lost. This time, however, an exception happened and I caught the beauty of the quote.

*From ‘Outlander’, Claire speaking at the beginning of episode 7, season 1

pearl necklace in hand

Skin near

red-dress-nature

I put you on a shelf
somewhere in my mind
so I can wear you
like a dress
from time to time

the closeness of my skin
the perfume
awakens the beast
brings memories
dreams and fantasies
your head gets drunk
but being skin near is not
enough

my dress
falls down like
red wine
the touch of your
presence
makes me go wild
you rest somewhere
between my chest
and the palm of my hand
caresses your arm

if I put you back
on the shelf
I will miss
wearing you around
yet your fragrance
got soaked in
my skin breathes
with your perfume
where red wine
use to flow

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 14th July 2016)

A forgotten dream

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Somewhere up on
a distant hill
there hides the gate
of your deepest dream
seemingly
out of your reach

yet within your soul
lurk all the answers
that you need,
inside the most precious part
of your heart
hides a little key
to open the gate
of your long
forgotten dream

dreams feed on longings
while the lack of courage
is their death
only those who are brave
climb up that hill
they follow the call
from within their soul
and grow into
who God
destined them to be
long ago

the rest ponder
on the impossibility of the quest
they drown the dream
with their fears
unless
life leads them up
that distant hill
unawares

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th August 2015)

A tree that made others happy

pink flowers

This tree has amazing pink flowers for only two weeks in a year, after which they loose the intensity of the colour, and for some reason the colour becomes darker, dimmed, there is nothing special about it after that. Sometimes we need to ‘time’ beauty lest we miss it. One moment it’s here, next moment it’s gone, a memory.

In the last week some of the petals have fallen on the ground and it looks beautiful, as they rest on the grass.
petals on the grass-Iva B.

Sometimes we think that everyday life experiences are nothing special, but perhaps beauty hides somewhere in them too. Honestly, I look forward to this tree blossoming every year. Beauty is everywhere. Let us open up our eyes, look around and notice it.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 9th May 2016)
Photos by © Iva Beranek