Living in the city is hard, even for those who were born in the industrialized environment of crowded streets, huge supermarkets, crammed subways and polluting factories. I was born and raised in Dallas, so I know first-hand about heavy traffic and five-level interchange roads. However, before I moved to New York City, I was apparently not well-prepared for surviving in the Big Apple. I love NYC, but sometimes it becomes too much, and I just have to escape from the noise to free my mind from all the routine worries, to clear my thoughts and remind myself that despite how difficult and challenging life can get, I still have to enjoy the road along the way to success while achieving my dreams.
Everyone needs to take a break from the crazy pace of NYC lifestyle, once in a while. When I ask myself where the best place to do that is, I do not have to think for more than a second. My favorite spot in the NYC is the Van Cortlandt Park, with its long paving trails that I so much like to ride on my bike, passing jungles of trees and bushes so wild that they make you believe you have escaped the city completely and are somewhere in the middle of a real rich forest. I love its ample, spacious green valleys that remind me of those gorgeous Scottish hills you can sometimes see in the movies, with white, puffy dots of sheep, and lonely, chunky trees. I adore the impetuous, dashing stream of the Tibbets Brook, and the contrasting calm and breathless pacifying waters of the Van Cortlandt lake.
Last week, I made my annual escape to the park. I was alone, did not take my bike this time, only my camera and my six senses, which was all I needed to enjoy a day away from work, buzz and crowds. I first went to the Parade Ground, watched as a couple of cricket players ran back and forth in their crisp white mantles that sparkled in the sun like diamonds. The players were just like those sheep in the Scottish hills, only whiter and much faster. Not wanting to get burned in the bright morning sun rays, I quickly moved on to reach my destination – the meadow grass plot in the middle of the oak forest. I had spotted this location before, and promised myself to go there again.
As I moved through the dense forest of the park, I pushed away the ample fluffy branches that came my way, trying not to hurt any of the big flat leaves, or neat, perfect acorns that covered each branch. Wanting to be closer to nature, I decided not to take the pathway but, instead, go directly through the forest. It was as if there was not a sign of civilization around me at all. The oak trees were my favorite, with their wide, strong, mossy trunks and tender, roundish leaves. The air was still wet from the early morning shower – while everywhere, in the open, it had already been dry and hot, as if there was not a shower at all. The shadows of the forest still preserved the moist humidity, intensified by the smell of wet moss and last year’s leaves that still laid on the ground. I loved this deep moist air, saturated with oxygen and filled with freshness.
As I was moving through the forest, a couple of times I came across little glades with no trees. They were intensely lit by the rays of the summer sun, like small islands of happiness, not enough to make me too hot from the fullness of sunlight, but enough to bathe my face and arms in their warmth. And just when it was getting too hot, I could again dive into the pool of fresh, moist greens of the forest to appreciate the shadows of the generous old oaks. I stopped a few times, took my camera out and captured the play of the light and shadow, spellbound by nature’s simple beauty that we tend not to notice, looking for chic and glam instead.
Half an hour later, I was at my destination point. The valley lay right in the middle of the park, between the forest and the lake, thoughtfully muffled by nature, protected from the inner noises and fuss. There were a couple of people already sitting on the grass, picnicking, reading, just laying down dreaming. Even though I was not alone on the meadow this time, I actually appreciated this fact: I could observe the people merge and coalesce with nature in this somewhat Utopian picture of a perfect idyll.