Nature in NYC

I’m not exactly a city person, but I do enjoy a visit to an urban environment now and then – perhaps for a bit of culture and excitement, or perhaps just as a reminder of how relieved I am to be back home in “the country” afterwards.

I spent the last couple of days in New York, doing my best to fit in to the hustle and bustle of fast-paced city life.  But, in true nature nerd form, I always find myself seeking out natural beauty wherever I can find it, be it parks, planters, people, or somewhere else altogether.

During this particular visit, I went to the Museum of Natural History.  Growing up in the outskirts of New York, it was pretty much mandatory to do a school field trip to this museum every year.  Or at least it seemed that way.  But, seeing as it had been at least 20 years since I’d been there, I figured it might be kind of neat to revisit it. Plus, I had a free pass.

I’m pretty sure my favorite exhibit was the mammals of North America.  I think what really struck me was how wild and diverse our continent is.  From the musk ox of the far north, to the jaguar of South America, the immense beauty of diversity of these animals just amazed and astounded me.   Did you know that wolves have the largest natural range of any mammal, aside from humans?  I didn’t.  Sadly, we’ve long since extirpated them in most of their natural habitat.

Big horn sheep at the Museum of Natural History

Big horn sheep at the Museum of Natural History

After wandering around the museum for an hour or two, I headed out into the bright afternoon sun, and took a stroll through Central Park.  This particular section of Central Park, called “The Ramble”  is one of my favorites.  Here you can wander aimlessly through a maze of paths, discovering all sorts of flora and fauna you’d never imagine could survive smack dab in the middle of New York City.   I followed a short path down to the lake, where I saw a group of ducks paddling contentedly.  I also spied a hummingbird, two Canada geese, and a turtle bobbing near a clump of Pickerelweed.

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Ambling up the path a ways, I stopped as a grey squirrel darted out in front of me to retrieve a recently fallen acorn.  Masses of purple pokeweed berries drooped from magenta stems, and a flock of common grackles rustled through the fallen leaves in search of food.  Their collective scrounging sounded like feet shuffling through crumpled newspaper  littering the city streets.  The colorful sheen of their feathers looked like the oily rainbow in a puddle on pavement.

One thing I really like about being in Central Park is seeing so many people enjoying it.  There are people strolling, sitting on benches, laying on the lawn, having picnics, and observing nature.  Most importantly, they are connecting with nature, whether they realize it or not.

Sometimes, when I’m in the city, I find myself thinking about what will become of all these buildings and streets and lights in another thousand years – or another million.  Will they be lost to the rising oceans?  Probably.  It might sound strange, but I find that oddly comforting.  After all, nature always wins.

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