New York is a city in perpetual motion. Day and night, people and vehicles travel the streets; subways, trains, and planes arrive and depart. New Yorkers are proud that the city never sleeps.
Yet daily we ignore a primal event occurring in our midst. I speak of the tidal flows in and out of the city.
This very morning, high tide was at 8:51 a.m. While I was sleeping, and then dressing for work and struggling (with the super's help) to put the air conditioner in the living-room window, and walking through Central Park to the subway, 260 billion cubic feet of ocean water surged through the Narrows beneath the Verrazano Bridge into the Upper Bay, and along the shoreline of this city of islands.
The ocean water continues up the Hudson River past the George Washington Bridge to Poughkeepsie. Here, salt and fresh water meet, the fresh water emanating from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks and from the rivers, mountain streams, and hundreds of creeks flowing into the Hudson.
Beneath the waters, scores of different fish mingle, including sturgeon and striped bass, both spawned in the river, both departing from the river for the sea, later to return to continue the cycle of life.
By midafternoon the tidal waters will have receded. The next high tide will be at 9:03 p.m., just as I finish dinner. The ebb and flow of the tides; the ebb and flow of daily living.
Another great tide impacts the city, far more visibly: the arrival of people from all parts of the world.
In 1609, Henry Hudson navigated the river bearing his name. New Amsterdam was founded in 1625. Less than 30 years later, 18 languages were spoken in the city. Waves of immigrants arrived in the 19th century from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Eastern Europe.
The flow of newcomers continues. A diverse population has been a constant throughout the city's history. Today, people from nearly every land live in New York.
Richard Holmes, in "Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage" (1945), writes of Johnson's friendship with the poet being "tidal like the River Thames; a friendship of arrivals and departures in the great city."
The flow of tides and people; arrivals and departures in the great city.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society