Is there a sea of souls out there just waiting to be placed in bodies? Does the Golem of Kabbalah lore, a man-beast with a mismatched soul, truly exist? These are questions I ask myself while I stroll down 5th Avenue in the ghost town formerly known as New York City, USA. The famous stores are boarded up and the street is empty, with only the occasional vacant yellow cab passing by. Men and women sleep hidden under newspapers in doorways. Could I be them? Could they be me? It seems like I’m a lost soul from a dystopian future who occupies this well-worn male body now.
Here, it’s autumn with the remaining trees planted decades ago popping up through the concrete, shedding their orange and yellow leaves in slow motion. Where is the street vendor and that bold sweet smell of chestnuts roasting on the corner of 56th? Am I the only one who feels disconnected from this new reality? I walk north to Central Park which is still an oasis amidst the big city. The crisp cool air in the park is cleaner and clearer, lacking both pre-pandemic pollution and noise. Maybe that’s why there are so many more birds chattering in the trees and picking through twigs in the meadow.
Further on, a doting mother and a child, a small girl with curly blonde hair in a Raggedy-Ann dress, sit on a blanket. They pick at french fries from a plastic container. An old man in a still older wool coat and fedora occupies the far side of a bench, reading a magazine. The near side of the bench beckons with the promise of rest and more pleasant meditation on the day. Taking a seat, I slip the thick paperback of The Odyssey from my backpack, the story never complete, mysteries and nuance always unfolding, the rhythm and patter soothing. But not this time. This body is too restless. The muscles in the legs and back beg to move. The mind rejects the written word in favor of the songs of Fall, the wind, the trees, the people. I’m up again, ambling the winding path to nowhere in particular.
Shadows pass beneath my feet. I flinch, then look up to see migrating redtail hawks flying in formation overhead. They interrupt the sunlight to awaken a primordial wariness from which my ancient soul recoils by instinct. The majestic predators land in a nearby glowing red Japanese maple, resting before the next big leg of their journey over water to Staten Island. There are a few bikers and walkers here fighting the tide of loneliness and lethargy that has swept through the city, the country, the world. What is the answer? What is their answer? I turn my head and cock my ear as if to listen. And a soft whisper comes back to me, floating on the carpet of a gentle breeze. Their simple, succinct clue to living and surviving with this strange soul in this foreign body is… “Take hope. Keep going. The journey that stirs you now is not far off.”
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