The Nature of New York

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!

New York by Nature

Having grown up in a small town outside of New Haven, Connecticut, I used to be quite knowledgeable about city ways, but these days woodland trails are more to my liking. Stepping out of our comfort zone and onto the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn this past weekend, I was sure I’d be a nervous wreck. The last time we’d ventured there, our sons were six and eight, and my knuckles white as I gripped their hands.

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That was then. Maybe it was because we didn’t have young ones in tow, or because I decided to embrace the moment and smile at each person I was able to make eye contact with, this time was different. Even some cold rain didn’t stop us from enjoying the city’s vibe . . .

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including all its colors and flavors.

n-Central Park meets autumn

On a new day, the autumnal tapestry was like deja vu all over again, since we’d already experienced fall foliage over a month ago at home.

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Even tree bark displayed variations of color, some that I thought I knew, until I found one with a name plaque.

n-London Plane

London Plane? Sycamore had been my first choice. It turns out that London Plane is a hybrid developed over 300 hundred years ago from the native  sycamore and oriental planetree.  And it was used as an ornamental to line streets . . . or park paths.

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Its scientific name, acerifolia, came from its maple-like leaves. I knew I’d learn plenty in the Big Apple, but didn’t expect trees to be among the lessons.

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As we walked through Central Park, street vendors displayed their works below, while American elms gracefully danced across the canopy above.

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And buildings magically arose from the rocky substrate.

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We zigged and zagged and made our way about, though I had to depend on my guy for directions. I can find my way out of the woods, but even though there were maps throughout the park and the city streets are set in a grid, I was completely disoriented at each intersection.

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Perhaps it was because I was more taken with the little things. Even seeing house sparrows felt like a treat.

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They were so tame.

n-Canada goose

I felt right at home among the Canada geese and . . .

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gray squirrels.

n-Stuart Little

We immediately recognized Stuart Little as he tacked back and forth.

n-strawberry fields forever

And then we wound our way around again, pausing by Strawberry Fields–and imagined. If only.

n-snowflake by Cartier

Back on the streets, we were dazzled by snowflakes . . .

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and Christmas lights.

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And then it was time to cross over to Brooklyn where we found a tour guide stepping out of his brownstone.

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Like others before us, with him we pounded miles and miles of pavement and left behind our own tracks.

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He took us to the World Trade Center, which we viewed with awe . . .

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and Ground Zero, where we felt the presence of so many as we remembered.

n-SoHo

Soho was our next destination, and though we didn’t shop, the architecture was enough to fill our minds with abundance . . .

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and variety.

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No visit to NYC is complete without taking in a performance and my guy, who is the world’s biggest fan of The Wizard of Oz, chose WICKED.

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I won’t say it was my favorite show, but the set, costumes, acting, dancing, and singing were all well worth the experience. He thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Another must do is Rockefeller Center–or at least the ice rink. We didn’t skate, but enjoyed watching people take a spin, some more agile than others.

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Overlooking the rink, but encased in scaffolding stories high, a transformation was in the works . . .

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from a Norway Spruce discovered in State College, Pennsylvania, to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

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Watching over all were the toy soldiers. And if you have ever wondered if they come alive after most of the world that gathers in New York goes to bed, they do. We know this first hand for we heard them. Our hotel room was located nearby and at about 2am we were awakened each night by an instrumental performance that had a symphonic sound. We couldn’t hear anyone in adjoining rooms. And we never heard a peep outside of Radio City Music Hall, so it had to be the toy soldiers and angels that surrounded the rink–and you have to become a believer.

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At long last, it was Monday morning and time to head back through the terminal of Grand Central Station to make our way up the northeast corridor.

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But . . . we left with fond memories and promises to return for somehow we who live in rural Maine raised a city boy.

Posing from left to right, my guy, our youngest and one of his roommates who also hails from Maine.

They’re both comfortable by nature in New York City.