Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Green in the Middle

Summer in San Diego isn't really all its cracked up to be. Not that there is not perfect beach weather almost all summer, there is, but there is perfect beach weather for a lot of the year so going to the beach is not that special. And in San Diego, and the rest of the desert that is Southern California, in the summer everything dies. The hills along the freeways are dotted with conifers in a sea of yellow grass and the deserts are again empty after their short spring burst. Human activity keeps lawns and some areas green at great environmental cost, and some canyons and valleys with streams and rivers maintain some green growth, but the area is like a husk of itself from the spring.

Moving to New York, with California weather making up the vast majority of my life experience, I was stunned by the greenery. When I first came for a job interview last summer, I was struck by how green the Bronx seemed, with trees all over the place ... very different from the idea in the back of my mind that the Bronx was an urban wasteland. This summer is the same, trees and grass and bushes growing up almost overnight and covering my neighborhood in a blanket of green. People say that New York is too urban, too many buildings that block out the sun, too much metal and stone, and there are certainly parts of the city where that is true. But that thought really misses the beauty of the trees bursting to life all over the city, of the flowers and bushes and general life spreading through the concrete and metal that dominate in the winter.

And in the center of the city sites a green gem, Central Park. This park is tremendously famous, in dozens of movies and TV shows, and hugely influential in New York culture separating the city into the East and West sides and providing an outlet for the athletic and outdoorsy endeavors of the otherwise building bound Manhattanites. When I first went to the park last fall, then several times in the winter and spring, and even now in the summer, I am always struck by the seeming incongruity of the huge number of over urban, too busy New Yorkers running, biking, skating, walking, hiking, playing sports and generally playing in the park. Its amazing. I had always assumed New Yorkers to be city-bound, not outdoorsy, over worked people, but here was this massive, green playground in the center of the city proving me wrong.

And now, as I become busier and more over-worked, I am thankful that the park exists, as it has become as important to my life as seems to be to everyone else. I try to skate there at as often as I can, making the 6 mile loop on some of the best concrete I have ever skated on. I go out of my way to walk through the park on my way through the city. I go to birthdays and picnics there. I go there and stand on the great lawn and look around and see buildings towering but seeming far away and it feels like I am far away. It seems too easy to get away here, and of all the things in Manhattan the park most makes me wish I lived there.

I am not sure if people would find a way to be outside if the park were not here, but I would like to think so ... it makes the people here seem more "whole". It would certainly be more difficult for me to go skating and do my long walks through the city. But theres no worry, the park is here to stay and I am so happy it is ... I must be New Yorkifying ...

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