I'm on the East Cost this week, visiting my closest friends from college. We're meeting up in New Haven on Monday, but I flew into New York early to spend a few days wandering around Brooklyn first, drinking coffee and listening to podcasts. I'm staying with my friend Rafa, crashing on the couch in his beautiful Harlem apartment.
Rafa's kitchen shelves are stacked with paper bags full of beans, a 5 pound jar of local honey, and a cardboard box of vegetables from their farm share. His living room book shelves are lined with "The Art of Eating", "Mathematics and Aesthetics", and "Einstein: A Life of Invention". On the end table, old issues of The New Yorker are obscured by a classical music journal in which his roommate was recently published. There's a turn table on the entertainment center and a old bike wheel screwed to a wooden stool out on the porch, someone's tongue-in-cheek recreation of Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel".
Being here fills me with joy and contentedness. And even though I'm not called to live in this city, in an apartment like Rafa's, in a neighborhood like Harlem, I'm so grateful that I'm able to visit a few times a year. Rafa's apartment is one expression of this amazing cultural space which exists in New York and a few other American cities - I don't know exactly what to call it, this cocktail of dense neighborhoods and local food, of working artists and mass transit, of good coffee and good beer and good books. I don't know what to call it, but I know that I was raised to live and work here: my entire adult life, ever since I turned 17, it was preparing to me to be in this space.
And yet, I've been called away. And even though it's not always easy, I am, in the end, grateful for that call. It's filled my life with family and meaningful work and a community of people who call out to God. Still, it's good to be back, at least for a few days. It's good to share a craft beer with Rafa and bask in the effortless comfort of home.