“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.”
— Frederick Buechner
I left Portland, Oregon at 11:00 PM on a non-stop flight and landed in New York at 7:00 AM. I took a Benadryl moments before take-off, and the drug was still in my body when I landed. My return flight is scheduled to depart at 5:40 AM tomorrow. I have less than 24 hours in NYC to figure out Dad’s Atticus Finch clue. I brought no luggage with me and counted on copious amounts of caffeine to help me keep pace with the city that never sleeps.
I have three hours until the box office opens at the Shubert Theatre. I bought two large cups of coffee and a donut while I planned and plotted my route with the help of Roberto, the gracious and knowledgeable AirTrain employee with a white mustache and honest smile. He gave me step-by-step instructions on navigating the AirTrain, which took me on an hour-long ride over the Passaic, Hackensack, and Hudson Rivers.
I exited the train in Central Park and enjoyed a slow walk through the city-surrounded green space as my brain and body woke up.
At promptly 10:00 AM, I strode up to the box office of the Shubert Theatre.
In a short matter of embarrassing moments, I learned I was wrong.
As soon as I saw that To Kill a Mockingbird was on Broadway, my gut said to go to New York. Dad was pretty big on gut trusting. I trusted my gut and booked a cross-country flight with Randall’s help. If I had been thinking, I should have called or emailed or something. Instead, I left Fagan in Claire’s care, and her mechanic was giving my car an oil change. My hopes were to head straight to the box office, pick up the clue, and come right back to the west coast, then sleep for a couple days.
But I was arrogant and stupid and ended up being horribly embarrassed.
I found the Shubert Theatre with the bright red To Kill a Mockingbird awning and lights announcing I was at the correct venue on the front of the building. There were only a couple people in front of me purchasing tickets at the box office, so I patiently waited my turn, convinced I’d solved the clue.
When it was my turn, I walked up to the attendant and proudly introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Gracelyn Gordon.”
The attendant just stared at me.
“My dad died a couple months ago and he sent me here. I think there’s an envelope or package I’m supposed to pick up here.”
After an awkward moment, the attendant asked, “Do you want a ticket for the show?”
“Is there, by chance, a ticket already in my name?”
The attendant looked on his computer.
“No notes in your computer about me?”
“There’s no picture of me or anything?”
The attendant just stared.
“If you type in Gracelyn Gordon into your computer, what happens?”
The attendant humored me and then asked, “Do you want a ticket for the show or not?”
I took the hint and left.
“Atticus Finch is the clue?” Nick texted.
“Yes, I’m positive. A picture and a quote.”
“And it wasn’t the Broadway show?”
“The walking around in skin quote.”
“How long are you in NYC?”
“Only for the next 18 hours.”
“You’re really close to The Met 5th Ave. You should go there. I’ll brainstorm about the clue. ”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“5,000 years of human history.”
The fourth largest art museum in the world.
More than 630,000 square feet of gallery space.
Visiting The Met had long been on my bucket list. My mood changed immediately as I spent the rest of the day among the best art ever created.
I participated in one group tour, getting a feel for the layout of the museum and its seventeen distinct curated collections. And then I just trusted my gut and experienced the wonder of the art.
Normal, everyday people, people of every shape and size from around the world in every century, used their hands and hearts and imaginations to create.
Paintings and sculptures and instruments.
Jewelry and pottery and clothing.
Books and furniture and Egyptian coffins.
I stood in front of Van Gogh’s straw hat self-portrait and studied the light and lines.
I marveled at Degas’ little dancer, with a face full of hope, ready to learn.
Seurat and Stradivari and Matisse and Monet.
People so inspired by the small moments of daily life that they felt compelled to record them in any and every medium. People not distracted by life’s necessities, but deliberately choosing to look and listen and see and discover life’s beauty. School administrators wrongly think that art is an extracurricular, an elective one adds on to core curricula. Without art, in all of its forms, we lose touch with our humanity.
God’s first act in time was creation. To create, then, is an echo of our divine image.
Just before the museum closed, I purchased a book and a couple of prints as souvenirs. My gut may not have found the answer to Dad’s clue, but it knew just what I needed.
“What about the Atticus Finch monument?”
Nick sent me a picture of the monument.
A simple, small plaque.
I read the words of the plaque and it sounded just like one of Dad’s letters.
“Twenty points to Gryffindor!” I replied.
Astoria, Oregon to Monroeville, Alabama was 2,705 miles and 41 hours of driving via the recommended southern route.
My car was ready, Fagan was as clean as he’d been in years, and my soul was inspired.