As Spring has begun to emerge in NYC I’ve realized officially that while I don’t miss our tiny apartment in Harlem, I do miss the neighborhood. As antisocial as I can be, I miss the small neighborhood feeling of being in residential a brownstone neighborhood where the tallest building for a few blocks around is not more than four of five stories high. And nothing beats living across from Marcus Garvey Park and watching the seasons change in the foliage there. Ohhh, let me not get too nostalgic. It starts to get me emotional. I have to embrace my new surroundings in Inwood, which is exactly what my husband and I did this weekend.
The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park was the one thing I had been looking forward to visiting when we moved to Inwood and we finally got to go this past Sunday. First of all, Fort Tryon is just beautiful! I can’t wait to go back when everything is in full bloom. I love that it’s so close to us on the A train. I have so many plans for that park! LOL! The lovely, leisurely ten minute walk to the Cloisters and the Cloisters Museum was perfect. When we arrived at the Cloisters I was totally enchanted by what looked like a castle or a Abbey on a steep hill. It appealed to all my childhood “Sound Of Music” indoctrinated fanaticism.
We didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the historic details and paintings or artifacts. Mainly we walked around the beautifully assembled structure and enjoyed the peace and stillness of the architecture. I love the use of arches in Medieval European church architecture. I always have. Over the years and as a result of some art history classes I have learned a bit about the strength and receptivity of the arch. Not only is it an aesthetically pleasing shape but it is able to withstand more weight than the more traditional post and lintel door way. To me arches and archways represent the feminine and in Holy places this feels justified.
Medieval art on the other hand does nothing for me but make me cringe. Remember those reprints of Unicorn tapestry that were all the rage in the 70s? My mom had them around when I was a baby and they kinda freaked me out even then. After seeing “Unicorn in Captivity” at the Cloisters, I know my freak out was warranted. At first you think oh it’s a Unicorn that is fenced for protection in and looks pretty content. On closer inspection you see that the Unicorn has been taken by force, has been hurt and is bleeding in places were it’s been poked and prodded. Unicorns aren’t even real! Leave them alone sickos!!
There was one painting I saw that I remember studying in art history class whose significance has deepened for me this time around. It is one in which the Virgin Mary is visited by an angel telling her that she will give birth to the savior. The painting was commissioned by a married couple who it is said were hoping for a child of their own which is part is why they requested it. I cannot find the painting online for the life of me but it’s something like the one above.
I think what made me pay attention this time was the relatable aspect of a married couple wanting a child. It made me really look at the Virgin birth as allegorical and archetypal. The birth of “Christ” represents the spirit of the creator in the birth of every child. Mary represents a doorway to salvation through Immaculate Conception but that doesn’t mean that sexual intercourse is evil the way many organized religions teach. To me, it means that if we are consciously and purposefully intimate, we are in communion with something bigger than ourselves in order to give birth to more love than there was before. That’s my read anyway. Also, I think Angels are very cool and Mary was just a regular chick in her time who became a celebrity because of a divine visitation. There is Mary and Oshun and an Angel in us all.
See what going to the Cloisters did to me? LOL!!
I can see myself going back there just to hang out, read, write in my journal or have a picnic with close friends. Oh joy!