On Thresholds


Photo: Offmetro.com


A few hours ago I stood at the first floor indoor balcony of “The Shops” at the Time Warner complex, “Jingle Bells” playing softly in the background, and stared at the commotion on the street below. The traffic circle and the whole street was awash in red, white, and blue. Not of flags, but in emergency vehicles.

Behind me the shopping center continued its pre-holiday buzz, filled with the distinct hubbub of people at the ceremony of gawk and point, browse and purchase. The mall was festive. Large ornamental decorations hung from the ceiling, and the balcony’s railing attracted a steady stream of visitors keen to capture a photo for immediate uploading into social media. It was a lovely spot to take a photo in, and yet it surprised me how many of the people who approached the banister seemed not to register the events that were taking place right outside the very windows that framed their shot.

It was impossible to miss.

Or was it?

Perhaps the tourists, energetically set to mingle with the locals, assumed that a constant whine of fire-engines, ambulances, and NYPD in a mass of first responders’ flicker is part of everyday in New York City. And perhaps in many ways it indeed is … and I am the one inured to an ongoing level of it. Perhaps where the quantity outside had, for me, somehow shifted qualitatively from the mundane to the attention-getting … the flickering outside had long surpassed the visitors’ threshold and had moved them beyond a place of response …

I considered how this was representative of the way in which, in general, once a “Too-Much” level for something is reached, a further increase in magnitude of too-muchness can paradoxically fade into the woodwork, swallowed by saturation.

A gaggle of teens passed by me, loudly debating the level of celebrity of some pop artist and the likelihood of her responding to a social media message. I found myself thinking of how an aspiring celebrity’s fan mail may be eagerly read when it first comes, every letter representing an individual … but might turn into a mass measured by boxes or at most a quick count of envelopes by the time fan mail becomes too numerous to actually read. One would have to pull out a single letter from the avalanche in order to rediscover the real person who’d placed a bit of themselves into the message. Otherwise, the very same person’s letter would remain as unseen as the rest.

It was the way so many other things — or at the very least the individuality of them — became meaningless when turned to be too many to count or attend to.

A stubborn blare of a siren jarred me out of my reverie and I returned my eyes to the scene outside the window. A ladder was raised to a high floor on one of the ornamental buildings on the exclusive street ahead. As far as the eye could see, Central Park South was brighter and more colorful than the lights around a tree.

Smoke billowed. It was a different kind of column than the one exuded by steam vents in the streets or steam stacks in the roofs of buildings. Fire.

Someone’s home. Someone’s belongings. Someone’s person could be at the mercy of the flames, tittering between existing and being devoured. The safety of the emergency personnel, too.

In this city of millions, it was all of it real. It was all individually significant in its own way.

“Keep safe,” I breathed. “May whatever this is, not completely mar your day.”



[Click for a Citizen App video of today at that time. Thankfully, all are safe.]


For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: ‘ingle’



30 thoughts on “On Thresholds

  1. Insightful. Beautifully tender at the realities of overwhelm, places of attention and seeing what we want or need to see and experience. β€˜Tis the eye of the beholder. ✨❀️✨

    Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D.

    AdeleRyanMcDowell.com Adeleandthepenguin.com MakingPeacewithSuicide.com Channeledgrace.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Adele. Yes! You said it so perfectly – thank you for adding to this post with your comment. It IS very much so in the eye of the beholder, and in the frame of reference we have and bring to every situation. XOXO Na’ama


    • Thank you, Dale. I tend to the philosophical … sometimes overly so. Also, I had half of my mouth numb from a just-completed dental appointment, and was headed for another medical appointment, which perhaps put me in an even more introspective mood (not to mention that I couldn’t spend the time people-watching in a coffee shop, so I had to people-watch in a posh shopping center where my (numb, but still mine) face wasn’t going to freeze off … πŸ˜‰
      And, yes, isn’t it amazing how we always only pick on some of what is happening all around us? I know that some people (military, law enforcement, spies?) are trained to detect, note, and retain a lot more details that most of us would find background’ish and utterly irrelevant … But I’d argue that even they miss much still, because of how THEIR focus shifts them away from other details they’d otherwise pick up.
      Here’s to curiosity and interest. I’m still trying to understand the full meaning of ‘bored’ … πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and in New York City, living near a main thoroughfare en route to a hospital and with a fire-station and a police station a few blocks away, I tend to hear these a lot … I send a thought on behalf of whomever is in crisis, and in case of an ambulance, whomever is there or is sped to. With the exception of laboring women (and even then, perhaps the exact ‘how’ is not what they’d wanted), it is usually not something anyone had wanted for their day … And often denotes some crisis.
      I am glad none were hurt in yesterday’s fire, though I can imagine (if only from the broken windows on the 7th floor apartment, which could be seen from the street), that some things were damaged and perhaps ruined. I hope nothing irreplaceable was.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It IS amazing, isn’t it? I think we notice what we find meaningful and we are completely blind to things that are just as real but perhaps get absorbed into our background. Fascinating things, people are. πŸ™‚ Yes, I was VERY glad everyone was okay, especially as they had to break the windows on the 7th floor and extend the ladder all that height. I hope nothing too important was lost. Possessions are secondary to life, of course, but it can still hurt to lose them. Happy Holidays! Na’ama

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my word, that must have been so very scary for the people involved! Yes, the preservation of life is so much more important than the preservation of things, but that doesn’t stop us mourning losing items too sometimes, it can be difficult. Anyway, glad they were ok! Happy Holidays to you too!


      • Thank you, my friend. I am sure it was very scary for the people involved, whether they were home at the time or had heard of it and rushed back home, or learned about it later. One of the scarier things, this is, even when ‘only’ possessions are affected (as fortunately in this case, there were no casualties). Happy Holidays to you and yours!

        Liked by 1 person

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