Sunday, February 19, 2012

The icon that is Central Park

It is at this very moment hard for me to put into words how serene and peaceful a place I am in at this very moment.

When I first arrived in Paris I was unsure if I was going to see the Eiffel Tower while I was there. It was of course one of - if not the - icon of the city, the people, the state and culture of France. But it was so cliche.

Even before that I was faced with the decision whether or not to see such an icon. While booking my travel accommodations in Goa I had to decide if I were going to see the Taj, which at that moment I learned was not simply just in Delhi. It was, like the Eiffel Tower, the icon that represented to most people the embodiment of what is Indian. But what if it didn't live up to expectations; it was a common cliche and accordingly I had developed some level of "wow" factor for it to live up to.

Ultimately I booked a train to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located, a first class ticket to boot. I followed my gut, and though I never stepped foot within it's heart's center I will never forget the day I spent within it's walls. It far exceeded any level of amazement that I had expected to witness.

My first day in Paris, standing soaked in the rain, fear full that I could not make it there, I wallowed back through the streets to make the seemingly endless trip to my hostel. As I approached an unknown intersection of streets I so happen to peer to my left and espy the top half of the tower rising over the buildings at the end of the block. It captivated my heart.

Though the Statue of Liberty for most would be the symbol of the United States it was  Central Park that for me was the true icon of the city of New York. When I first arrived I had a similar feeling as to the one I had in Paris; that maybe I would check out the icon or maybe I wouldn't. In the end it was clear what I would do; I have been in this city for 17 days now and happily can say that Central Park has lived up to and exceeded my greatest and wildest expectations.

The first time I was introduced to Central Park it was by Miss Monica Morris from Cork City. We started chatting on the 1 and before long she was recommending to me that I follow her and debark the train at 59th St. Following Miss Morris' lead I emerged from the belly of the city facing Columbus Square and marvelled at how the city unfolded before my very eyes. She advised that I walk down 59th St. until I reached 5th Ave. then turn right to meander south deeper into Manhattan.

As I walked I could not break my gaze from scouring the park, trying to discover and examine everything my eye could see. On the other side of the stone containing wall sprawled a vast stretch of lawn an almost unseasonably green that washed into boulders and stone face protruding from the earth. I was floored to see that the park wasn't just some man-made "keep out!" type of land but that it was an actual cool piece of earth that had not been disturbed. I walked the entire time down 59th St. ogling the landscape in shear awe.

The second time I ventured into Central Park I decided to thread through it's heart and walked along the southern boundary of the largest pool of water there. I had made it no more than halfway before my own wide-eyed stare froze me in my tracks. As I looked to the left and then to the right and took sight of the metropolitan buildings that shed their reflection unto the water's surface I was again taken by the magnitude of the park.

Later that day I nuzzled into a cozy park bench and peered through the trees, past the river-way, and over the tree line that fenced out the city that surrounds. The overwhelming stature of the park continued to fill my soul with joy.

The third time I visited the park it brought me back to being in France and India. In such a wondrous natural escape in the middle of a concrete jungle I was totally and completely lost. My loss of direction was so severe that when I left the park that day I had spilled out onto 71st and 5th instead of 59th and 7th as I had expected to. Though I was armed with both a compass and a gps device I was unable to utilize either as my attention was dominated by the splashes of green and blue.

But it was the fourth time that cemented the status of Central Park as a quite worthy icon to represent the city. Wanting to get away and into my thoughts I returned to where I had seemed to have been drawn since coming to New York. It was dusk, and not having reached the park until after five the sun had long since started it's dash for the other side of the world.

The previous trips to and around the park gave me a sense of direction while in the park and so the coming night did not persuade me to find more welcoming and better lit surroundings. As I strolled through the forest I was truly and utterly simply amazed at how serene and peaceful the woods were. In the middle of such a truly massive world city lied this sanctuary where peace of mind can be so easily attained. Wandering on the winding paths I even came across a part of the park that was blanketed in shadows; it was so peaceful I actually heard the sound of the insides of my ears.

There were no horns, no cars, pedestrians, trains or planes. Just the sound of silence. In the middle of a park filled with fields and forests and water I had silently climbed fully into my own thoughts. I never in a million years would have expected to find such an escape in the midst of such a pulsating and vibrant city.

As it turned out, Central Park is everything I had read, seen, or imagined it to be; it simply lived up to it's iconic status. I am blessed to both have the opportunity to enjoy such a magnificent place of solitude and to have had the experiences for which I can compare it to. But really it's all just another day in the park...

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