Sabbath Day (not) – The City (of White Plains)
That’s right. No sabbath day this week. My regular sabbath Thursday involved breakfast with the clerk-elect of the congregation I serve, preparation of a stewardship mailing, pastoral visitation, and an evening fundraiser in Manhattan honoring a good friend and member of my congregation. To be clear – no complaints at all. It was a fabulously productive day. But there is in my spiritual discipline ledger a day to be made up.
Then again, I managed to make time tis week to watch three of the four games in which the Chicago Cubs lost so impressively to the New York Mets. I was pulling for the Cubs, despite the unanimous cheers of Mets fans at the pub where this TV-less pastor watched the games. Well, as we say in Chicago, “wait till next year…” (My Chicago Cubs child came home from schools with the conviction that the Cubs can never win because they are cursed – a story I promise he did not learn at home).
With the sacrifice of much sleep this week, and reading during commercial breaks, I did manage to absorb two books. Not quite my usual commitment to reading multi-national literature, but highly local interest. I began by reading Jane Jacob’s classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, looking primarily – but not exclusively – at New York City. I had read parts of this in college, but thought my current interest in history and my new home merited a thorough study. Jane Jacobs “got” cities like no one else – cities as complex systems of diversity that generate fuller and richer forms of life. “This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding,” she famously opens with. And succeed she does – Robert Moses being her chief (and only mentioned once) opponent. This is the kind of book that changes the way one looks at the world. My experience was greatly enhanced by reading great sections of the book in Stuyvesant Park while waiting for a friend in surgery, with generous time to walk and think and observe and reflect. (Despite rooting for the Cubs, I LOVE New York).I also re-read Renoda Hoffman’s Yesterday in White Plains: A Picture History of White Plains. Beginning the year immediately after the Civil War, Hoffman traces the development of the village (population 2630) and later the city of White Plains (current population 60,000), from the introduction of the railroad and trolly system through the urban renewal of the 1970s (and the loss of so many historic buildings). I learned, or re-learned, so many stories that I have been repeating all week. All the more appropriate because this weekend marks the anniversary of the Battle of White Plains in 1776 – an annual memorial will take place this Sunday afternoon at the Jacob Purdy House.
The books-to-read on my bedside table are growing…
Next month I have scheduled a retreat and some study leave. Perhaps that could include some sleep as well?