I made sure to turn 33 in Prospect Park, where the witch hazel was unfurling.
Ferns everywhere in the Hudson Valley. Coated with light. Their ranks filling the forest floor. For what it’s worth, I wanted to stay there forever, but, of course, there were vistas to see and sandwiches to eat. Drives along the river and art. Whenever I’m in those woods, the industrialized past that defined the region seems so far removed from any present moment. The husks of old buildings filled up with air and motes of dust, their windows waiting for the next revival. And the trees that surround them themselves covered with vines that certainly beckon a new kind of destructive wildness and abandon.
This piece of stone all covered with moss intrudes on my thoughts more often than you might imagine.
And I think of how in desert mosques, the ceilings were often painted in such a color to remind visitors that an intangible cool green world existed somewhere beyond the realm of complete or rational contemplation.
In New York, this bright phosphorescent color will be visible for only a few days in the new leaves that curl up at the ends of twigs and stalks on these tired street trees. But it is enough for me.
This has been a year of travel, so far, and of leaving New York for other cities and other memory-places. My old routines are gone for the most part, or abandoned temporarily. (I ran to Queensbridge Park the other day and found it paved and ready for recreation, no crumbling paths left, and I felt a sense of loss.) However, in spite of movement rediscovered, mostly, it seems that I roam around in search of grasses.
Or open fields that archive the views seen by others. (This is North Elba, where Mary Brown remained behind.)
I am a poor naturalist–I can hardly name any birds or trees or celestial bodies. And I have realized lately that I can’t hear silence anymore, but instead, a silvery hum. I saw one pond, still and cold, in the morning before sunrise for two days in a row and it was a welcome pattern. I felt remote and small and unchanging.
I found myself in furthest Queens on Sunday, walking along the freeways and access roads that envelop JFK. Since the area surrounding the airport was originally a marshy wetland adjacent to the ocean, you can still find overgrown places (more than you’d imagine), and picturesque landscapes all offset by the roar of cars and buses on asphalt.
The roar of incoming airplanes, too, and the feel of invisible effluence descending on a poisonous, beautiful scene. We saw a kestrel and almost became tangled in razor wire. After the sun sets, the lights that guide the pilots to the ground form a glowing grid that looks like so many diodes on an illuminated brain.
After hours of walking into the night out in that netherworld, we arrived at the most improbable of places: a village with houses on stilts, across the highway from a strip mall and entirely quiet. It was some time before we began the long journey back home. Sprinting to buses to catch the next shuttle. Driving back on the roads we’d walked. Three trains and then the familiar.
The woods up near Cold Spring are perpetually surprising. I try to head up north every year around this time and the colors are always slightly different, moderated by unknown timetables. On this particular excursion, it rained intermittently while we were scrambling up the rocky trails which made everything seem slightly unreal. At one point, the sky was glowing red in the distance.
Every time I visit these trails, I think of the ghosts that live here and way that the stones and rocks underfoot will eventually lose their formation. Someone warned me against making walking an act of aggressive consumption, and I think there is some merit to the advice. But for me, I think of all these places as haunted and wishing for acknowledgement. Conversations are everywhere if you can bear to take part.