It is five o’clock on a summery Wednesday afternoon as I sit amongst hundreds of other people on the Staten Island Ferry heading to Manhattan.
As the tangerine coloured boat lags away from the dock, I take my place leaning on the rails of the upper most deck. Around me, couples and friends make their way around the boat sitting, standing, trying to find their place within the prized vessel.
As I look out along the water, I see a lighthouse perched on the center of a hill next to an American flag, and I am reminded of places further away. Places like Cape Cod or Newport Beach in California, although not a great distance from me, they seem substantially far in comparison to the island I will soon approach.
For me this journey is homeward bound, but for many the voyage is one of departure, people leaving their homes in anticipation of something more. Something, seemingly, greater. And although they may say and truly can be proud of where they come from, they still have chosen to leave, in search of something that only this little island can provide.
As I take a seat I can not help but notice how the boat trudges hurriedly towards Manhattan at a significantly different pace from when it departed the island earlier that day. Slow and melancholic was my departure from South Ferry, yet with alacrity the boat returns anxiously awaiting the city.
As we pass by the Statue of Liberty, a celebrated icon of freedom and dreams, the energy on the boat seems stimulated by an electric charge. We are reminded of the people who travelled much farther and much longer for a dream and a wish exactly like our own, and suddenly we no longer feel alone. In a place that can seem so isolating, we find community and connection in the legacy of dreamers past and in the actions of present doers. Workers, travelers, writers, readers, we have all come together with the central idea and desire for something more.
I look back at the town I just left and around at the cities surrounding the island and notice how none quite live up to the glory of Manhattan which stands before me. The skyline mimics the rolling hills of the lower grounds I just came from, but in a much grander, emphatic way.
When I stand up once again, returning to my post at the rail, I see the sun shining down on the water. The hot rays paint golden streaks along silky blue waves warming the people and world around me.
However, as bright as that light may glow, I know that the real light sits to my right. Glittering she stands, proud, tall, entitled, and smiling. Shining brightly, she awaits the arrival of the islands newest members. The front of the boat is inundated by eager passengers ready to set foot on the land. The boat docks.
Welcome to Manhattan.
Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. This poem can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174738