Underfoot


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View from the top of the city.

“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light, ” reads the poem by Yeats “I would lay these cloths at your feet.”

I don’t often find myself in the company of poets. Poetry in general tends to go over my head, but a rare exception like Yeats occasionally resonates with my life. It was a poem that the Curmudgeonly Lion and I choose for one of the readings at our wedding and I found myself thinking about it again today as I spent the afternoon in the city with my siblings.

The day was clear and sunny, but cold: only about twelve degrees, not counting the wind. We’d gone downtown to visit Filbert and to see her new apartment and originally hoped to go ice skating in the park but arrived to discover an hour long wait in line followed by an hour long intermission for ice resurfacing and decided that two hours sitting in the cold, waiting, wasn’t worth the fifteen minutes of ice skating that we would likely get to do. So instead we went to the Hancock Building in the hopes of getting a few good, indoor views of the city.

The Hancock building is one of those attractions in town that, like the Museum of Contemporary Art, was something that I’d gone past many times but had never made time to do. There is an observation deck at the top providing 360° views of the city, but it requires the purchase of a ticket. Meanwhile, there is a restaurant and a lounge on the ninety fifth floor that only the cost of a drink to provide access to the views. Not that the drinks are cheap, but they are a nice bonus if one is going to have to pay one’s way to the top of the tower.

The view from the lounge was spectacular. The night was perfectly clear: clearer than I’ve seen in a long time thanks to all my time spent in Los Angeles over the past several years. The city was laid out below like, indeed, heavens’ embroidered cloth. Or,  if not the product of heaven, at least the masterful tapestry of human energy, ingenuity, and complexity: planes above, cars below, roads stretched out as far as eye could see and every living thought burning as a point of light.

On the north side of the building, where we sat for our drinks beside a table full of rich women doting over a farty lapdog, it was possible to see the bright ribbon of Lake Shore Drive running alongside the intense blackness of the lake beyond. On the south side of the building, in a crowded dining room or, as luck would have it,  from the womens’ bathroom it was possible to see the companionable profiles of the neighboring buildings in the loop. It was the perspective of a titan: like standing in the midst of a model city.

“But I,  being poor, have only my dreams.” The poem continues, “I have spread my dreams (that just autocorrected to “drama” so perhaps my phone knows me better than I care to admit) at your feet. Tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams.” I stared for a while and thought about the Curmudgeonly Lion and wished that he could be with me to see it.

I have always had an abundance of dreams. Perhaps in earlier readings of this poem I assumed that meant that I was poor: as if being richer would bring me closer to the cloth of heaven. As if “I have only dreams” ergo “I am poor”.

I know now that no one has wealth without dreams spread at their feet. The true wealth of life is to stand in the company of family and loved ones with the whole world spread out in front of you and to discover that the longing that you feel isn’t for money or power our fame, but only for the people who aren’t there to see it with you.

Standing there, at the top of the city staring down on the cloth of heaven, was magnificent, no doubt about it, but it was just as compelling to take the elevator ride back down to the ground floor and my humble dreams and the people at whose feet those dreams are spread.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on December 30, 2014.

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