I walked south on Madison Avenue on a September morning. It was ‘fall’ in New York, and warm. A clean, white light bounced off the concrete pavement and buildings. Everything seemed to angle upwards and outwards. I sensed the spaciousness.
My elbows lifted ever so slightly, enough for the warm air to get under them. It’s mainly downhill heading for south Manhattan, so walking was more like floating. I felt I was a bird about to take off. I started to stride out, easy and long. With my arms away from my body just that little bit, I felt I could take deeper breaths. I heard my nostrils sucking in the air.
I’d just been to Brooks Brothers and bought some button-collared shirts. I was on holidays. Life was good. New York gets into you like that.
Ahead of me, two metres out from a restaurant window, stood a table set in the middle of the wide pavement. There was plenty of space around it as there was not a lot of foot traffic. A red and white check cloth neatly covered the table. One corner of it fluttered lazily in the warm air.
A large white ceramic bowl sat on the cloth. It was so big it almost extended beyond the edges of the square table. The whiteness of it reflected even more of the mid-morning light.
This huge white bowl, set on the red and white check cloth, was full of tomatoes. Deep red tomatoes piled up high. The light effect of the check cloth, the white bowl and the red tomatoes drew my eye in.
A clump of basil leaves still attached to their stalks rested on top of the tomatoes. A mass of green, on red, on white, on a red and white check. On Madison Avenue, New York, in the light of the sun.
It was just before lunch. There were no chairs at the table. And no blackboard. No menu card or spruiking waiter, either. Just the colours floating, like me, on the expanse of the pavement.
There was nothing that needed to be said. Tomatoes and basil. Perfect.
I feel healthy just thinking about that.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.