I recently went to New Jersey for a conference, it was my first time anywhere near New York City. Our hotel was on the Hudson, and across the river the New York skyline whispered me goodnight and good morning. I saw the silhouette of Lady Liberty, I watched the ferries traverse the Hudson. I watched the pink sun rise over the tallest buildings I’ve ever seen, and I saw the bright skyscraper lights litter the heavens with fake stars. Then I realized there were no real stars.
I’m a nature-lover through-and-through. I keep bees and enjoy resting on our half-acre plot with our dogs running around chasing squirrels. I watch chipmunks scurry outside my office every day. I grew up hunting for bugs and lizards and picking flowers that were actually weeds. Now, I know all the best places to find a rollie pollie or a salamander. But more than anything I’ve always loved the stars.
I competed as a sixth-grader in a science club. I memorized all the constellations I could. Those constellations still float around in my brain, and I find myself connecting dots in the night sky often. Big dipper, Leo, Orion’s belt. I remember them, their mythology, and the reminder of the bigness of our universe.
If I ever chose to live in New York the light pollution would betray me and I’d seldom, if ever, see the stars. I’m not sure my heart could take it. If I could scrounge up the cash to pay the impossible rent, if I could find a job that would afford me a salary to pay said rent, if I could sell all I own to move there—it would still be far too expensive.
I, like many, am a forgetful creature. If I’m not careful, I quickly become like Israel wandering in the desert, wishing they were back in Egypt. The created world around me ensures I never forget so grievously. As the Psalmist does, I look to the skies and see the declaration of God’s glory. I watch the heavenly bodies dance and proclaim worship to the Lord our God. I relish the light of the moon, the tides that she creates, and the intricacies of every last bit of it.
There’s much to say about the glory of New York City, but if I lived there looking out my fire escape to see the tons of concrete surrounding me I’d soon forget the greenness of grass or the delight of seeing a deer leap across the street. And if I forget those things, I’m bound to forget the glory of the Lord as well. I’d forget how He crafted the snow-frosted boughs of trees, how each glitters in the winter sun as snow slowly melts. I’d forget how He made the bees to work in community, a sisterhood, feeding us all. I’d forget the sound of the mourning dove’s coo, or the color of the twilight sky, or the feeling of an uphill breeze. I’d forget the curve of Orion’s belt, or the location of the North star, or the formation of Leo.
I know that the God-fearing can live in such a city, and many do. I also don’t hold a grudge or bad taste against New York. There are those who live, worship, and flourish there. I’m glad for them as they bloom where planted.
For me? No, New York City is far too expensive for me.