We pounded the sidewalk this weekend in a style not quite ours, but visiting the Big Apple always finds us realizing that the world around us is larger than our little speck on the map in western Maine. And yet, we found similarities everywhere we turned.
Birds of various shapes, colors, and sizes like the Common Tern with its bright two-toned bill, offered watery reflections as they stood in front of us and pondered life in the East River.
On a much larger scale was the raven of the sea, the Cormorant, with its eyes so blue and bill so long and hooked.
There were a variety of gulls as well, plus sparrows, and of course, the exotic pigeons, all enjoying life along this place where the Statue of Liberty welcomed us from her distant, yet ever distinguished pose upon Liberty Island.
We spent some time in the morning and again in the afternoon beside the river and it dawned upon me as we gazed at the surrounding architecture, here positioned behind the Brooklyn Bridge, that the form of each structure was rather organic in style. Just as all ferns might be viewed as “just ferns,” so might buildings be viewed as “just buildings.” But then one day, you wake up and begin to notice the idiosyncrasies and suddenly you recognize the sensitive fern in its once-cut form with its separate fertile frond and the lady fern with her hairy legs and comma-like “eyebrow” sporangia on the back of her pinnules and voilà, you realize that each one has its own characteristics worth noting. Somehow, the buildings began to feel the same to me–their different forms and colors and sizes took on new meaning and though I don’t yet understand them all, I can at least appreciate their artistry.
The other thing I began to realize is that from our stance in Brooklyn, as we looked across the Manhattan Bridge, the community on the other side had suddenly changed or so it seemed based on the size and style of the buildings, much like natural communities change based on location–whether its a riverbank, forest, pond, cliff, or bog, etc. Fortunately, we were accompanied by our youngest son who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan, and he could point out that the view below the Brooklyn Bridge was of the Financial District of Manhattan, while the view on the other side of the Manhattan Bridge was toward Chinatown.
Even the bridges themselves were meant to be celebrated for their lines, whether straight, curved, or angular–all working together to create monuments out of stone and steel.
Against the sky, their geometric shapes drew our eyes up and down and up and down again as we glanced upon the individual spans.
A few steps beyond the bridge, in DUMBO, we spied more geometry enhanced by color and while some might see crystals in rocks, I kept thinking of insects and their “mechanical” structures of antennae and legs and thoraxes and abdomens and wings.
Our walking tour included The Fence, the largest public photo exhibition in North America that moves from one city to another and will be on display in the Brooklyn Bridge Park through September.
The photographs are displayed in categories. In the Farm-to-Camera category, it tickled me to see that photographer Adrien Bloom had included Garlic Scapes from a farm in Maine.
Beside each set of photographs within a category, an explanation was provided. In this case, we read the following: “Farm-to-Camera honors the pure and simple beauty of the bounty that comes from our farms. Billions of years in the evolutionary making, each item we pick up at the farmers market, or directly from the farm, is a perfect piece of art and deserves to be treated as such.”
One last gaze across the East River provided a sight that looked more poster-like than real. And yet it was . . . real. And in its realness, it appeared that some buildings in the canopy had crowded out the saplings and shrubs and definitely those in the herb layer.
According to our son, the reality of the unfinished building in the center is that the structure is off by two inches between the top and bottom and it has been left as is for months now. Perhaps it will be the tree that can’t survive in this forest because of the crowded conditions.
Before we left the DUMBO area, he showed us a different view of the river, actually this one a representation as it blocked off a location where “Gotham” is set. He was able to point out changes they make during the filming season as he knows it from a work perspective in his job at a film editing house.
Our first day ended with the three of us enjoying a delicious dinner at French Louie under a break in the sky–a heart meant for us.
The next morning called for a trip to Manhattan and a walk in Central Park where the ornate architecture was framed by a break in the trees.
It was near there that we paid our respects to Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, aka Alexander von Humboldt, the famous geographer, explorer and naturalist. His publications, which were prolific, had a mission to encourage scientific inquiry as well as a wonderment of nature. And to him we gave thanks.
Within the park we stood by The Lake for a bit, watching lovers in boats . . .
approaching each other in the water,
and basking in the sun. Interestingly enough, if you scroll up to the first shot of The Lake, you may notice that the rock upon which the Red-eared Slider Turtles sunned themselves actually looked like a turtle.
It was there that we also spotted dragonflies new to my knowledge–the Eastern Amberwing. I think I may have called it the Topaz Wing had I been the first to ID it, but perhaps that’s because I’m partial to the stone that represents my birth date.
Inside the Museum of Natural History we wandered and wondered for hours and hours. I’m not a city girl, but I sure did wish from time to time that I lived closer for I would purchase a pass each year and spend time in various sections–visiting repeatedly to gain a better understanding.
Oh yeah, these are the two variations of a snowshoe, aka varying hare.
And did I mention that we spotted Sandhill Cranes and their nest. It looks like three little ones should hatch any day now. That is . . . if it’s possible to emerge from their plastic forms enclosed behind the glass wall.
Though I enjoyed the river and park and museum, and especially breaking bread together, the best part of the weekend was spending time with my guy and our youngest son, both of whom actually posed for me beside skeletons of extinct mammals.
We were there to wish this young man a happy 25th birthday. We are so proud of him and the work he is doing and person he has become.
He loves New York for all its city ways and quirky offerings. We love that we can visit from time to time and get to know his place a wee bit better–right down to the artwork on the walls of the subway. The more often we go, the more we begin to realize that in the midst of all its city-ness, moments of wonder can be found.
Ahhh–the nature of New York.
P.S. Happy 25th Paddy Mac!
4 thoughts on “The Nature of New York”
Leigh, I enjoy all your posts (although I must admit I don’t read them all), but as an occasional visitor to NYC too, I so appreciate your perspective and eye for the details, and ability to find nature everywhere. Thank you!
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Hello Judy! Thanks for taking the time to read this one . . . and comment. Hugs to you! Leigh
Thank you for another wonderful read Leigh. It was such a creative take on a place that I have never visited but now see in a different, calmer light to the hustle and bustle and chaos of NY I’ve seen on tv. So lovely to see its nature, especially the turtles on turtle rock! I’m not a city girl either so when we visit York, as opposed to New York, we tend to avoid the crowds and follow a quiet path of ‘snickleways’ around the city. http://secretyork.com/snickelways/
When our sons were young and we took them to NYC, I used to clench their hands. But really, it’s a fun city–especially when you have a son who can guide you. Central Park is absolutely amazing–I never used to understand that when people told me they birded there. Crazy. But wow. I grew up about an hour and a half from the city, and outside a smaller city, but like you, I’ve always been a country girl. And I love the ‘snickleways’ around York. I suspect I know exactly some of your choices there from my time as a student in ’79. Oh, and that word: snickleways. I’m going to have to use it. Tonight at the Greater Lovell Land Trust where I work as education director, our speaker was from England (and Maine where she summers). Her topic was footage from a BBC Nature program filmed here in Maine, and she made the connection/disconnection between the species of animals and birds we take for granted and that seem so exotic to you and visa versa.
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