19 January 2014


"And something is cracking
I don't know where
Ice on the sidewalk
Brittle branches
In the air."—Suzanne Vega

Whenever I hear Suzanne Vega's song "Cracking," I think of Central Park in the winter. With the lyrics running through my head, I went up to Central Park today to take some photos, deciding to concentrate on the Mall with its famous elms and Literary Walk. Even though I was wearing my trusty parka I had forgotten a hat, and I bloody froze. But I did manage to capture a few shots before hightailing it to Eric Kayser's for a much needed hot coffee. Here's some of what I saw.

Even though there was no snow on the ground, there were plenty of signs that it was wintertime. The Bethesda Fountain was empty and there was an ice sculpture modelled on the Angel of the Waters. The iconic Angel statue was created by Emma Stebbins in 1873, the first woman to receive a public art commission in New York City. The fountain itself commemorates the founding of the Croton water system, which brought fresh water to New York City for the first time in 1842. Meanwhile the nearby Lake was frozen over bringing to mind Holden Caulfield's visit to the pond and his wondering where the ducks went in winter (like in the book, they were nowhere to be found).

Walking through the arcade to the Mall, I took time to notice the beautiful tiles that cover the ceiling (above). A woman was standing at one end singing Pucinni, which echoed throughout the passageway.

The Mall is the only straight line in the Park, a formal design in the middle of nature. Originally referred to as an "open air hall of reception," its proportions were made wide enough so carriages could get through, dropping its wealthy patrons off at one end so they could walk and mingle with other folk before picking them up at the other end. American Elms create a canopy over it and are quite spectacular, even in winter. Once common in New England, the American Elm was decimated by Dutch elm disease. The ones in Central Park are kept separate from other elms and closely watched over by park gardeners. Today they are one of the jewels of the park.

At the southern end of the Mall is the Literary Walk where one finds sculptures of four poets—Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Shakespeare, and the once popular Fitz-Greene Halleck (a fifth statue is of Columbus, go figure). Scotland's beloved Burns looks like he's getting inspiration straight from God while Shakespeare is off on his own, away from the others. Perhaps a nod to his elevated stature?

No offense to the poets, but the trees in Central Park are much more interesting. In a city with way too much concrete (one of the reasons why the city is so unbearably hot in the summer), trees are a welcome sight especially in such abundance.  

And then there are all of the animals and birds to see, both real and imagined. There's always a large number of horses in this section of the park decked out in an assortment of colours from the white horse in jaunty red who appeared to be racing a park worker to the black horse in purple who reminded me of a horse in a Victorian funeral procession. Not to mention the numerous dogs out for their daily walks and the countless squirrels busy digging up their hidden food supplies.

Right before I called it quits for the day the sun came up behind the buildings at the edge of the park, casting some lovely afternoon light on the surroundings, reminding me that regardless of the temperature the park is always a beautiful place to be.

All photos by Michele.

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