Thursday, May 14, 2015


There was a springtime snowstorm, featherweight white petals swirling outside. Mixed by the wind in the trough that constitutes West 89th Street was a salad of serviceberry, cockspur hawthorne, and a dash of tulip tree petals all bathed in a dressing of sunshine. It was a jumble of seasons: a faux winter, the intro of spring and the exit of the year's first season's pastel petals off New York City's blooming trees.
So much of life is about taking a path to the unexpected. You make a choice and travel a road when the possibilities of trails to take are endless. I was postponing going into Central Park to photograph its spring beauty thinking I could holdout for the wisteria in the Conservatory to bloom. It was Saturday. The park would be packed. The weather had turned from warm to hot. The purple pull of the wisteria would have to wait; the itch to join the pack was too strong. I grabbed my iphone and headed out for a sneak peek at the greens and magentas and vibrant pinks of spring.
To get to the Conservatory I have to traverse the park dipping below the reservoir and then up to 106th Street and the Conservatory's wrought iron gate. There's no way on a hot spring weekend that you can do much more than an amble in the park.
The heat, the crowds and the distractions transform your pace to a slow meander absorbed in the discovery behind every hill, underpass or curve in your path. The lucrative nature of the park on a bright Saturday afternoon brings out the caricaturists, the Spanish churros vendors and the buskers hoping to entertain and find their passed hats filled with ones and fives and tens.
The Conservatory opens up with a vista of an immense quadrangle lined with boxwood and cherry trees.
At the far end is a fountain and beyond that the wisteria colonnade that had turned green but hadn't produced its dripping bunches of grape colored blooms.
To the left and right spread more gardens each filled with the fragrance of flowering trees.
A heady weight of spring's fragrant bounty so heavy it seems capable of breaking its limbs with the abundance of its beauty
On either side of the quad are alleys ripe with pink and white blossoms bursting from the knurled limbs providing
a perfect canopy for a family absorbed in taking a portrait of their newborn..
The illusive nature of life could not have been more poignant than the wheelchair bound woman sitting in the dappled shade next to the reflecting pond. She sat facing the Burnett statue listening to the bronze boy playing songs on his lute only she could hear.
There's such a small window between when the blooms on the trees are rich with color and that moment when you can see that the vibrant pink has paled and the trees begin to look more green than pastel.
I hadn't planned on going to the park that Saturday. Sometimes intuition draws you through a door you hadn't planned on opening. By Tuesday the petal storm outside my window was like a love note cut into a million little white pieces announcing the end of that small speck in time when the blooms are perfect.

Rick needed a wooden plank brought back to Wisconsin to be repaired. That very small penny-pinching part of me thought I could some how get it onto the plane as a piece of carry-on luggage. There are certain things I'm willing to try but it didn't take me long to see the folly of attempting to board a plane with a fifty-two inch board in hand that when wrapped had the appearance of a military weapon. The board was going to have to make its way back to Wisconsin without me as its seatmate. I searched the Internet for the nearest UPS Store (a note to UPS: your site not only sucks but it's filled with misinformation). You search the UPS site by address and zip code and they then tell you the nearest stores to your entered zip. My closest site was on Broadway, or so I thought. I believe implicitly in the reliability of the Internet, never ever doubting its accuracy. I walked down 89th Street, the most direct path to my destination. Halfway down the block between Columbus and Amsterdam sits a community park I had probably passed a dozen times in all of the other three seasons but not to my recollection in spring.
The park runs through the block north to 90th Street. It's funded and maintained mostly by neighborhood volunteers. Hedges of bushes and vines will eventually obstruct the view into the park but in spring the park's drapery has been drawn back. The tree canopies and the climbing vines that will soon cover the park making it more a secret garden haven't yet unfurled their fabric.
The park for a few short weeks in spring is more exposed and like an exhibitionist sheds its robe and dances the dance of the rite of spring, a tulip spring. More than twelve thousand tulips of both traditional and exotic varieties burst with color along the narrow paths and circular courtyard of the park.
The weight of the plank I was carrying was not going to keep me from taking in the little piece of Holland on West 89th Street.  I walked through the gardens gates and drew in the Technicolor blanket laid out over the garden's beds. I walked through staggering combinations of multi-colored patches of huge headed blooms balanced on slender green stems.
There were double blooms that looked more like peonies than tulips.
Lily flowering varieties that delicately spread their petals, the tips of which looked as if they had been dipped in contrasting ink.
There were parrot varieties exhibiting their stripes,
and fringed tulips that shared their tendril appearance with sea anemones, and the multi-colored Rembrandts named after the man whose painting inspired them. The tulip isn't about its fragrance it's about its magnificent spectrum of color from pastel to vibrant.
I lost the thread of time. It seemed as if I had witnessed the complete growth of these tulips from seed to blooms while I walked around this garden. If it wasn't for the plank I was carrying around I might have forgot about my errand. I had written down the number of the UPS Store on Broadway. It was between 83rd and 84th Streets on the west side of the street. The address was for a building with multiple storefronts but none of them had a UPS sign in the window. The main entrance to the building was for low-income senior housing with dirty tile floors and a reception desk with a big clock and an attendant who spoke only broken English. I eventually found the UPS Store a block from our apartment on Columbus, but if it hadn't been for the faulty info on the Internet I would never have made it to the tulip festival. I went back later that day. It had been a little windy. When I came back most of the petals were lying on the ground. The tulip stems were now only sticks with little yellow pollen tips.
So much of life is about taking a path to the unexpected. You make a choice and travel a road when the possibilities of trails to take are endless. This one led me to a color sensation that even if I had waited a quarter of day longer would have been gone until next year. We all make choices some to unexpected delights some to tragedies. Thursday was a lucky day.

A clint had asked if I wanted to do dinner. We had finished a two-hour session at a Benjamin Moore paint store looking at paint chips for her brownstone with names like Lemon Chiffon and Hathorne Green. I wanted to join her and at the same time I didn't feel up to it. There was laundry and cleaning to do before flying back to Madison on the following day. I tossed a coin in my mind. Duty won out. I said good-bye and headed back uptown. I got off the number one train at Seventy-second hoping for some restaurant with take-out potential. I was hungry but I couldn't put my finger on what I wanted. I cut over to Amsterdam to a stretch of enticing restaurants squeezed between Seventy-eighth and Eighty-fifth streets. I kept thinking something would grab my stomach and send a message to my brain but nothing did. Not the burgers and shakes, nor the lobster rolls or chicken potpie shops had any appeal. I passed up Indian, Sushi and a half-dozen Irish pubs. By the time I reached Eighty-seventh street I knew it was going to be Dominos, no embarrassing waiting at a table for one. As I turned the corner from Eighty-eighth on to Columbus there was a man holding a puppy with another dog on a leash talking to a woman. The little dog was a real showstopper. I could only see the man from the back. As I got closer the man began to look more and more familiar. When we were younger and more concerned with what we might look like on the beach in Mykonos we went to the gym regularly and had a trainer with us at all times. Ted, our trainer, eventually became more friend than fat reducer. We lost touch but periodically one of us would come up with phantom Ted sightings. It never panned out. This one turned out to be the real thing. Low and behold Ted lives around the corner from us and has for the entire time we've lived on Eighty-ninth street.
If I had stopped at one of those restaurants on Amsterdam even to only look at a menu my timing would have been off. I would have hit the corner of 89th and Columbus at a different point in time. The man with the beautiful puppy wouldn't have been standing there talking to a woman about his little dog. It would have been an empty corner, a storefront from Domino's.
So much of life is about taking a path to the unexpected. You make a choice and travel a road when the possibilities of trails to take are endless. This one led me to a chance encounter with a lost friend. We all make choices some to unexpected delights and some to tragedies. Thursday was a very lucky day.

Roses, 1970
Irving Penn, photographer
Represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

No comments:

Post a Comment