While most posts of New Year’s Eve will feature popping champagne corks, streams of colored confetti, throngs of revelers, clinking glasses, foil-fringed party horns, dropping balls and rising plumes of stars cascading across the night skies, the Errant Aesthete, in true contrarian fashion, has chosen a somewhat quieter image to pay tribute. While this night view of one of the oldest bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge, was captured within the first hours of a newly fallen snow, it is its simple and sparse loveliness that holds special appeal to me. I could not have known that it would prove to be symbolic and seminal in ways unimagined.
For one, its history tells of a dire series of events that very nearly squelched the bridge’s existence were it not for Emily Warren Roebling, the wife of the chief engineer, Washington Roebling, who spent eleven years dispensing guidance and critically essential design instructions to the on-site crews after her husband suffered a paralyzing injury. Hence, while bridges are often glorified as passageways uniting the old with the new, or the familiar to the unknown, there is something in their majesty and bearing that always softens and soothes.
Perhaps it comes from the nostalgia for the places they evoke; in this instance, the place of my birth, affectionately christened “The City of Bridges,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or maybe it’s nothing more than the secret little thrill that terrifies and excites each time you cross over water, canyons, or death-defying precipices like the unfamiliar.
So this year, this bridge, at least for the Errant Aesthete, has come to mean not only the ending and beginning of things, but the continuum engendered, despite obstacles, failings, and thunderous doubt. Having crossed, I feel what can only be likened to a crush of sentimentality, fellowship, warmth and gratitude over the bonds created, the connections forged, and the ideas shared over incalculable miles with readers from places that beckon in their intrigue and humble in their enormity at what an insignificant little journal of bits and bytes can elicit.
I spoke earlier in a post entitled ‘Reflections 2009’ of EA being very small and mostly unnoticed since its inception in mid 2007. Yet, the obscurity suddenly, almost miraculously, changed through the notice and unfailing support of others, prompting flight, or what I deemed, “a small excursion … but one of significance to its creator.”
As one of my dear blogging acquaintances, Arti from Ripple Effects, noted: “Amidst the ever increasing chaos and turmoil in our world, it’s all the more essential that we carve out a niche for beauty and contemplation. Herein lies the effect of your site.”
Her eloquence goes to the heart of my intent. My thought in creating EA was to do little more than send a bit of grace into a world hell bent on doing its damnedest to diminish and blunt. The idea of establishing a sanctuary, a refuge of words and images, where friends gathered and a genuine love of aesthetics (not to mention an expertly made cocktail or two) thrived, where something as inconspicuous as a bridge, for example, could take on new meaning or, as another reader observed, “lull and lift,” leading from the lamentable misery of what surrounds us day to day to a more secluded spot untroubled by the woes of the weary. I remember reading some time ago of an idea that has stayed with me: that one is rarely, if ever, catapulted into failure, but instead, quietly and senselessly, nudged into it.
Might that idea be reversed? I can’t pretend to know, but I had a bit of time to try. EA was, and is, that effort. To any of you it has reached, whether through — a piece of whimsy, a glimpse of art, a story of redemption, a whiff of indescribable beauty, a sampling of impeccable style, a breeding long since lost, and a semblance of a class only vaguely remembered; or a quip, a photo, a sonata, a perfectly turned out phrase, or the constellation of a perfectly-ordered room along with the imperfect plan that created it; an experience shared, a memory revived, a piece well placed, a meal well served and an unnatural aching for a bridge long since traveled — it has all resonated from here and I am the richer for it.
Where the bridge leads? I know not; although it is understood that it is more in the traveling than the arrival. As to the destination? I draw inspiration from Herman Melville:
It is not down in any map;
true places never are.
Photo: Michael Magill, 1995