(Continued from here. And happy new year!)
The local library would have been a perfect alternative; too bad it was closed. But The Jewish Theological Seminary library is nearby, open to the public, and probably bursting with Jewish-related inspiration. I don't know this for certain, since I have thus far been too irrationally intimidated to step inside. I decided to end the year on a courageous note, and headed uptown after checking online and at the recorded number to make sure they were open.
They were closed. Rabbinic scholars have better things to do than update their voicemail and websites.
All pumped up to write in an exotic location, I got back on the subway and headed to the Donnell Library, one of two in Manhattan open on Sundays. I went there often as a teenager, since it was just one stop away from Queens and a good place to dump overdue library books. (Yes, I was a profligate breaker of laws back then. They always found me out and sent menacing letters demanding fines, which I paid.) On Sunday the library was blissfully empty and bathed in fluorescent light, a humming, green-tinged island of quiet amidst jostling holiday tourists on this block of MoMA and St. Patrick's. Although I am a tolerant, open-minded person, I sometimes hate tourists with the passion of a thousand burning suns. They cram like lemmings into the streets of midtown, which also happens to be my back yard; they gawk while standing smack in the middle of the sidewalk, where the view is no different than over to the side and away from my usual frenetic trajectory. Thankfully, none of those people came to the Donnell. I sat in a sterile carrel and wrote for an hour, had lunch at a great old diner, and came home newly inspired.
It was a good lesson about focus, especially as I prepared to help lead the Contemplative service. A change of scenery can work wonders; silence is ultimately the measure of the noise inside one's head.