I was walking home for doctor's appointment Tuesday afternoon in the rain. It didn't seem worth taking the subway for a 20-minute walk, but halfway through it I thought, why did I do this? I'm drenched. I'm tired. I still have two kids to pick up. Last-minute groceries to buy. Walking home was a mistake. 

I stopped for a minute to take a break under an awning on 24th Street, and saw more than a hundred glowing paper lanterns in the window. 

There was no sign, although "3 squared" was painted on the window in gold. 

"Lanterns for Peace" said a sign inside. 

Was it a cafe? 

I peered in. 

Only one table. A gallery? A store? 

I adjusted my backpack, shook off my umbrella and propped it back up, continuing west on 24th with one backward glance. The rain was still coming down. The lanterns gleamed. 

Back home I saw it was an exhibition by artist Jessica Maffia and that the closing reception was the following day.

That is New York, the promise it has always held. That on a rainy, routine, mundane Tuesday, when you shouldn't have walked home in the rain, on a block you think of only as the block with the 99-cent store, you pause for shelter, and you are more than sheltered, you are embraced, intrigued, beguiled, renewed, with light from more than a hundred glowing paper lanterns. On the last day before the exhibition is dismantled, sent from people you will never know and never meet, handwritten messages of love and peace.


  1. Thank you for this perfect slice of city life! It makes me miss living in NYC so much. It also makes me want to buy some paper lanterns.

  2. This is lovely. And thank you for turning me on to a new artist to follow -- the collage on her website is fabulous!

  3. Thank you both! Jessica's art is wonderful - right? I'm happy to know to follow her now, too. And paper lanterns...absolutely. I didn't even make the connection to The New Collossus until the nightmare refugee ban last night.

  4. What a good story - thank you for sharing it. Light, yes Light is what we need, and lights are what we need to receive and to be.

  5. Thank you GretchenJoanna. I agree. You always seem to be a light source.

  6. This post feels like drinking tea- warm and comforting and quiet and necessary. A relished pause. Thank you.

  7. Thank you Amie! So kind to read this comment now—and wondering how I missed it back during those rainy days.

  8. Rachel,
    I love how you incorporate photos into your blog. They are as artful as your writing and complement it well.

  9. Why thank you Rivka—what a nice comment to get on this gray morning in NYC!


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