All day I’ve been writing about Henry David Thoreau, whose 200th birthday would have been July 12th. I am shocked by how much I have to say about him and the other Transcendentalists. It’s as if, growing up within miles of Walden Pond, I picked up their combination of puritanism and unadorned joy through sheer osmosis. “Something in the water,” indeed. But more than that, Thoreau’s less-is-more” self-reliance and environmental philosophy is so, so precious in this moment in which we’re being held hostage by more-is-more maniacs.
This is Rosa and Vera. Both are Jews who fled Nazi Germany, emigrated to Argentina, and eventually made their way to New York City, where they have rent-controlled apartments, speak four languages, and take long walks every day. I met these longtime friends while waiting for the East River Ferry at 34th street. All three of us were fretting because the ferry were delayed, and bonded when they found out I was a card-carrying feminist who hated Trump as much as they did. “How do people not see this is what happened to us in Germany?” Vera wailed. I felt ashamed that they should survive so much only to witness later generations forgetting everything. “Past is present,” said Rosa, clasping my wrist. Then she complimented my Audrey Hepburn glasses. “With this style, you’ll find a new job soon.” “What are you doing in Brooklyn today?” I asked, admiring her pretty necklace in turn. “Well, we thought we’d sit by the Promenade and then stroll down to Sahadi’s,” she said. “Just because the world treats 80-year-old women like they’re invisible doesn’t mean we don’t like to do things.” Meeting these two birds is why I’ll never leave New York.