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a glimpse of nature?

July 22, 2009

Walking (and walking and walking) through ruthlessly paved urban spaces the past 10 days left me thinking a lot about the different physical and emotional experiences between that and what it’s like living in soft, leafy (weedy), rolling, rural NY. Trees growing in street wells and public parks/gardens shared with thousands of neighbors soften a city, deepening its character, and I believe they’re essential to having peace in the city. But they began seeming to me at best, remote, and at worst, choked and sad, like mums desiccating in a forgotten concrete container. It’s a question of intimacy and touch. You can’t get very close to nature when you have to keep off the grass. Funny coincidence to come across this today, the first in a series in The NY Times Lens blog , about public art in New York City. I’m wondering if a “glimpse of a natural habitat” helps or hurts, if it fertilizes the imagination or further distances and cages the natural.

Photo Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

‘A Clearing in the Streets,’ by Julie Farris and Sarah Wayland-Smith, provides a glimpse of a natural habitat in a city setting, the Collect Pond Park in Lower Manhattan. Ms. Wayland-Smith is watering the landscape. The installation is a 10-sided structure with viewing slots that reveal wildflowers against a panoramic mural of a vast blue sky.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2009 8:58 pm

    hrrmmm… excellent food for thought… ought to be fully discussed and debated over mojitos perhaps. I think I have a greater appreciation for – and am less likely to take for granted – the nature available in the city and vis versa, the culture in the country. As Jonathan Richman has it, “I want the city, but I want the country too.” (and suburbia is probably fodder for further debate.)

    • July 22, 2009 11:08 pm

      Excellent! And when will you and Zeke be coming by for mojitos? The mint is almost going to flower. Isn’t Canada coming up soon?

  2. July 23, 2009 7:46 pm

    I would join in on the mojitos but wouldn’t have a coherent thought. don’t even know if I have one now.

  3. July 25, 2009 7:51 pm

    Wow. You sure are traveling this summer. Just catching up on your blog. Did you go to Garden Walk by yourself or with spouse?

    • July 25, 2009 7:59 pm

      Well, I begged off Garden Walk. As fun as it would have been, we had company at the end of the week, and I have a ton of catching up to do on my life and garden! There are about a million photos to process, plus I finally registered a domain name to make a photo portfolio site, so there’s that to obsess over. And now it looks like the rain is back…

  4. August 5, 2009 1:20 pm

    For me this piece points out the separation from nature, and the photo from above, showing the little piece of imported nature in the middle of the unplanted expanse, really shows it well. For me it’d be being dragged to a zoo. For some people they seem to stand in as all the nature they’ll ever need. For me, the caged and canned version of nature is so not the same thing.

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