An Uptown Pilgrimage

by Brittany


A few days ago I was uptown near Central Park, I only ever go up that far for grimly dull doctor's appointments (there's an inordinate amount of offices up there.. I blame the inordinate amount of wealthy old people that exclusively live up there) or the Met. Being already up there, I decided to venture even further uptown to the very top of the Park where the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is. The building is quite spectacular... in a solitary splendor since there's really nothing else up there but moms and college students. It feels like a grotesquely (because of its out of place-ness) ornate island in a sea of elderly suburban buildings with very few people... because they all commute to lower manhattan by day. The apartment buildings aren't ugly, for the most part, just painfully bland. I'm sorry if I've misjudged the area... It was my first time there. And I only saw a few blocks.

But I wasn't there for the building itself. It was a little pilgrimage to the grave of Madeleine L'Engle. She was the librarian at the cathedral for years and years. And is buried there along with her husband and possibly, in an unmarked grave in the churchyard, one of her dogs. I never actually read A Wrinkle in Time as a child, or now, for that matter. But her lesser known books were balm for my soul and have stood by me for years now... literally, I read them over and over. Certain Woman (I've raved about it on the blog several times) is one of the most beautiful, far reaching novels that incapsulate the writhing struggle of christianity, the arts, womanhood, manhood.... really, all the important things. Her books about teens and early twenty year olds are a large reason for why we (or I, Jesse has his own reasons) live in NYC! But she also writes about the islands of Puget Sound, a little town in Switzerland that you (Rachelle) and I spent time in, and many other places drawn from her varied life.

Her grave is an unassuming marble plaque, in the midst of a wall of plaques like patchwork, with her and her husband's names and dates. Lots of the plaques on the wall had hastily written notes,  with their jagged, torn edges, slid haphazardly into the cracks between. I wondered how many tightly folded notes were fallen out of sight by now. Her grave only had one note. I desperately wanted to read it but I resisted. I felt bad for not thinking to bring something... a little flower or something. I think it's weird and touristy to simply visit a grave. But that's what I was doing, Next time I'll plan ahead more. I started to walk away... the heels on my boots echoed throughout the entire cathedral, it was eery but I think I was the only one who noticed...when I suddenly realized that her husband had died in 1986 and she had not died till 2007. I had to go back with that knowledge cause I'm weirdly sentimental that way. She stood where I stood, for years, mourning her husband.

[unrelated photograph by Jesse of laundry, crooked art and a quiet evening]