At the end of the day, it’s so good to get off the subway and head for my home away from home. Even though I can’t see much from my window but a brick wall and a church steeple, maybe that’s what Angela Merici saw when she lived next to a church in 16th Century Brescia, Italy. And I’m warm and well fed, unlike the homeless on this night when we are expecting subzero temperatures in New York City.
But today I was feeling a little like a stranger in a strange land; I miss being close to nature, even if it’s only to look out at my back yard. They don’t have any back yard here, no front yard either (you just walk into the buildings right off the street). There’s no place to plant flowers or a tomato. The school next door doesn’t have a playground–for recess, I’m told, they just close the street for play.
It’s easier to cope when I remind myself that this is a missionary experience. Our sisters who went to New Mexico in the early 1900s missed Kentucky in the same way I miss nature; the Ursulines who came in the early 1800s from a well-ordered Bavarian city must have had a shock when they got to Louisville, and Angela surely must have missed her rural home and vineyards when she moved to a typical medieval city! We go where we are called, because our true homes are in the heart of God. And of course there are other forms of beauty here: the architectural embellishments on buildings are remarkable, there are parks here and there, and trees planted in the median along Broadway. Oh, and did I mention that I went to Lincoln Center to the opera the other night? The sisters know someone who gives them free tickets–we saw a stunning performance of Simon Boccanegra. In the subway tunnels last week we were treated to a Peruvian folk ensemble, jazz, Cajun, a Chinese stringed instrument, breakdancing and mime…this is not a bad place to be “exiled.” And there is beauty everywhere, if we just look.