Today Joo and I visited the Cloisters, a few acres of European monastery grafted onto the northern cliffs of Manhattan.
A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters bills itself as a museum of medieval history, but it looks and feels like a place for prayer. It sits in Fort Tyron, which was rescued from development in the early 20th Century when John D. Rockefeller bequeathed it to the city. The Cloisters came about at roughly the same time when a collector, George Grey Barnard, purchased parts of five different French monasteries and shipped them to New York to be reassembled, stone by stone.
The effect is one of overwhelming peace and silence, especially after emerging from the A train at 190th Street. Even the most obnoxiously dressed tourists moved at a hush among the 14th-century stained glass windows and the tapestries that lay against the cool stone walls.
I sat for a long spell at the edge of the largest courtyard, or cloister. As a recording of Gregorian chants played in the background, the sky erupted in a cloudburst. I watched tendrils of lavender sway in the breeze and noticed the way a leaf twitches when pelted by a raindrop.
June has been a wet month, and everywhere I walk raindrops have been crash-landing on leaves. But I never had the bandwidth to notice. This was the best part of the Cloisters, having time to notice without worrying about panhandlers or the bleat of ambulances.