I've walked past these painted pillars at the Essex street subway station hundreds of times since moving to New York City in 2004. But I never appreciated them as much as I did this week when waiting for a train one night on the platform. Perhaps I'm becoming more nostalgic as a precarious birthday draws near (it's on the 15th just in case you want to send a card).
Or perhaps it was time the peeling paint taught me a lesson in recognizing beauty. Walking around this amazing city all day, it's easy to keep my head down (usually looking at my phone), my cynicism high and my tolerance level low (very low). And suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by a peeling steel beam that had been painted dozens of times before, some years in very bright colours, some years very dark. For a moment I found myself thinking about the people who waited on that same platform when all the beams were painted bright blue. Or that orange! It made me wish that my history with NYC was as long and elaborate as these layers of paint.
After a long and intense two weeks of lectures and panels on climate change, one hosted by Sustainia at the UNGC Leaders Summit, another by Eileen Fisher, I began to suffer from pangs of guilt over producing more garments - something I experience relatively frequently - until I found myself waiting a little bit longer for a train that I take all the time and was hit by the thought that there is beauty where it is least expected, if we look for it. All too often in this great city I find myself running from one appointment to another with my head down (usually looking at my phone), with cynicism levels high and tolerance levels (very) low. At that moment my mind connected this peeling paint with the idea that only time can create hidden beauty, which cannot be duplicated or faked. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but it was a moment of pride and connection with the slow fashion movement.
A moment I may have missed had the battery in my phone not died 10 minutes before the train pulled up.