Monday, June 02, 2008

125 Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge arches

Two weekends ago, I went to Brooklyn...

'The Brooklyn Bridge is 125 years old. Today's its birthday weekend,' says my spouse. 'Want to go walk over it?'

This is my writing day. I think of all the words I won't put to paper, well, to keyboard. Still. I've never gone to the birthday of a 125-year-old. We'll do it, then, yes. Words will come another day.

We drive past the East River, watch as buildings, clouds go by and tunnels eclipse the sky. Park and walk. Over the Brooklyn Bridge. Bridge that grew from the imagination and ingenuity of a farmer. Bridge that took lives in dark slimy hellish underground work, where air was smoky with candlelight and rank with the smell of long-buried garbage. Bridge that grew strong while men grew weak from disease misunderstood (who knew that people had to adjust to different air pressure upon ascension?). Bridge whose master engineer lost sanity when he made the painful decision to stop digging before hitting bedrock (too many lives were being lost... and the ground was packed tight, so hard to dig). Bridge given over to the wife of the engineer, to manage the project and shock those who perhaps thought a woman was not fit to oversee such as this.

Bridge of songs, of imagination, of stories. Bridge under my feet and over the river. One hundred and twenty-five years old and still standing. Beyond the worries that plagued its makers. Past the celebrations that heralded its opening. Here, in my now, under my feet and my children's feet and who knows how many children's feet to come. Brooklyn bridge.

LL on Brooklyn Bridge

LL's feet on the Brooklyn Bridge.

LL and Whitman

LL reading Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" from a 1940's poetry book, to children who are dreaming of ice cream and wondering if they can walk down near the river. (For a truly beautiful reading, check out Mark Goodyear's Happy 125 Years Brooklyn Bridge: this poem's for you.)

Bridge, feet, and book photos by L.L. Barkat.

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Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

This is one of my dreams because it is part of my family's story - to visit the Brooklyn Bridge. Thanks for pulling these images up onto my heart's screen today.

7:07 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Michelle... oh, do come! Now, I would love to hear about that story.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

that's beautiful as always...
but the BB was too scary for me to walk across that weekend!!
..and it was crowded..
...and my little adventurous 7 year old darted everywhere on the bridge and bent down to look thru the cracks at the cars and the water...
...which totally freaked me out...

but it's all perspective, right?! ;)
(i did think about all those men digging to that bedrock for that bridge)

10:01 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Your post is descriptive and lovely. I think you got your writing time after all, yes?

I just love the image of the kids dreaming of ice cream while you're reading them poetry. So real.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous monica said...

that photo is amazing.

the BB reminds me of 9/11 when thousands fled the island on foot.

11:13 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

such a striking photo of the bridge!! your musings make me wonder ...

what might remain when i am gone, beyond the worries and adversities and little deaths that are a part of life? will it be something that bridges a gap from here to there, something that makes those who walk upon it look up?

2:56 PM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

Now I'm wishing I took time to see it when I was there. Very interesting post. Good thoughts.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting, L.L.!

Amazing is that story. A surely amazing feat with the engineering and implements they had way back then to build it! Surely would not be easy today. I certainly will want to see it now, if I ever get over to Brooklyn.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I wanted to thank you for the information about High Calling and the animal writing project. I signed up with them, and I sent in the links to my dog parables.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

That first photo looks like spider webs in cathedral. It is a magnificent structure, but it makes me a little blue to know that any human lives were lost in its construction.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Ann Kroeker said...

Phooey. That's a bit far for us...

Love those, boots. Perfect for hiking the bridge. That shot reminds me--I meant to tell you that I found a pair of black shoes that look identical to your Calvin College shoes! We can be all matchy-matchy next time we meet, if we want. Not that I've ever been matchy-matchy in my life.

I digress.

How clever are you to take along that poem. You are educator-extraordinaire.

A long time ago I wrote a post about writers needing to take risks and log experiences in order to have fodder for their writing.

You did that.

You experienced life. You didn't miss an opportunity.

And later, you wrote.

6:31 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Andrea... funny, I didn't even think of the heights we were at. Then again, I didn't have a little one running around like that! It was crowded, but all the more reason to find respite on the other side at the best ice cream place in Brooklyn.

Ruth... that's the thing I always try to remember when I "give up" a writing day. Life is what feeds writing, so I really can't lose if I decide to live!

Monica... thanks! Now, I hadn't even remembered that about 9/11. That must have been a strange and frightening experience... fleeing on foot. Boy, that bridge has seen some history.

Kirsten.... absolutely. I was very struck by a sense of time beyond time when I was there. Maybe because I knew so much about the history of the bridge. I love how you expressed your comment.... so poetic!

A Musing... so you'll have to come back. :)

Ruth (again :)... great! Glad you decided to participate.

Ted... particularly interesting because of the history. Gives farmers a good name!

Craver... I think this is probably the way many historical structures were built... on the backs of immigrants, so to speak, and at the cost of life. It IS a beautiful bridge though. Have you ever seen it in person?

Ann... you make me laugh. And if I had to be matchy matchy with someone, who better than you?! Calvin 2010?

7:18 PM  
Blogger Butterfly Mama said...

Thanks for bringing me a bit of home!

I grew up in NY and miss the train rides into the city!


11:34 PM  
Blogger Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Awesome picture of the bridge! Did you walk across it? I want to do that this summer, I think.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Vis-a-vis? Mais non. I only briefly visited NY once. Family in Canindaigua. There are so many amazing things to see in this world, but time limits us. Heaven will be great that way... you will never run out of time to see or do great things!

(I have no idea why I started to answer in French. It just happened.)

1:38 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Of coarse I'm a grate speler!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Scott R. Davis said...

I love bridges. growing up in Maine during summers, we crossed over the bridge from Kittery over into Maine and screamed as we crossed. And we crossed a sturdy southport bridge with the tenders who came down from the observation deck when a boat needed to cross through the channel. And we crossed a rickety bridge that led to our small island, Pratt's Island. I caught and released dozens of green crabs one summer day and had fun doing that as a teen when I summered on Pratt's

And then there is the famous illustration in christianity of the Bridge where we cross from death to life by the cross of Christ.

Yes, women can do amazing things from building a bridge , to building into people's lives through images. And how your life impacts many walkers in the faith of God.

May God bless your work.

In His grace,


8:18 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

i love the shots of your feet in different places.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Missed this one last week. I love the Brooklyn Bridge. Thanks for the link--but most of all thanks for the poetry. "Bridge of songs, of imagination, of stories. Bridge under my feet and over the river."

2:31 PM  
Blogger The Oho Report said...

L.L. Your pictures remind me of visiting my grandparents when I was a child. My dad grew up in Brooklyn. Being Norwegian he was a minority; evryone called him White-y. He didn't like this nickname. My sister Lola and my cousin Carol were named after two jewish sisters that were kind to my dad and his brother when they were young.

For my parents 50th Wedding anniversary I bought my dad a framed sketch of the Brooklyn Bridge(from Target). His eyes watered when he saw it. It now hangs over their couch in their living room.

My name came from a childhood Brooklyn friend of my dad's: Otto Tonnesen; he died of Polio while attending M.I.T.

2:33 AM  

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