Monday, February 4, 2013

Flowers in winter

We walked into Prospect Park from Grand Army Plaza. I was hunting snowdrops, but the Frenchman spotted an old friend of mine, this witch hazel, near the entrance. There was no trace of the sweet witch hazel scent. Maybe it starts later in the day...

On the snowy bank opposite was another, blooming on a branch that resembled a compound fracture. Many damaged trees have not yet been pruned after destructive storms. The witch hazels are flexible enough to withstand high winds but are crushed or broken when large trees or limbs fall on them. 

And a third, below. If we found no snowdrops, these were lovely compensation. See, it's broken, too.

I know. A squirrel. 

This is on the edge of the Vale of Cashmere. A steady volunteer group keeps this part of the park as tidy as it can, though fixing the paths - deeply grooved and rutted and exploded and pot-holed tarmac - is beyond their scope.

The woods above Battle Pass. Scene of one of many fights in the Battle of Long Island, August 27th, 1776, in the American War of Independence. At this spot the (newly minted) Americans fought the mercenary Hessians (...I am partly descended from a soldier of fortune, but English, not Hessian - not saying that's good thing, it just Is). It was a long day. The battle moved all the way to where we live, in Cobble Hill. We walk with ghosts. 

We avoided the Litter Mob woods. Too depressing.

And we found the snowdrops. One month to the day, earlier than before.

The leaf litter is very thick, and an enormous tree had crashed on top of a large patch.

Prospect Park should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site (these are the criteria that must be satisfied). Like the canals of Amsterdam. Then maybe the City of New York would spend more money on its upkeep. 

Cold after our long amble, in temperatures just a little below freezing, we found an actual picnic table just up there to the left, in amongst those trees.

We stayed long enough to eat many slices of our local, cured duck breast, to discuss how we could have more duck shipped from Granville Island in Vancouver, to watch dog owners bellowing at their dogs, and to see the arrival of an elderly Asian couple, well-insulated in big red puffer jackets, sit down to their own picnic complete with intriguing steam from flasks. 

After they had eaten she took a nap, head on arms on table, and he read the newspaper. 

It is never too cold to picnic. 


  1. Dear Marie,
    Thank you for the lovely walk! My son lives in Brooklyn and so I have been to Prospect Park, though never in winter. And now I can identify witch hazel!

    As for the snowdrops, it is disturbing that they are so early, but they are not alone. A new study that uses data from Thoreau's plant journals found that native plants in Massachusetts and Wisconsin bloomed 3 weeks earlier in 2012 than they did in Thoreau's time. I wrote a little piece on the topic here:

    Again, thanks for the Monday morning inspiration!

  2. enjoyed going through the pics...

  3. Marie, I think I have noticed something about your photography – your winter scenes seem to have more of an eye. Now, I discovered your blog in summer and it is your summer stories that keep me coming back – lush and inviting – so that is NOT an insult to those images. But looking at this particular set I can really tell that you were in tune with the composition of the frame, of the placement of color and texture and line and motion. These are very painterly, and actually immediately reminded me of Frank’s beautiful works. I guess I was wondering if it is a creative process you are conscious of or if this just happened to be a particularly productive outing with the camera?

    1. I might have had Frank's paintings in mind...

      Thank you for a thoughtful observation. I'm not sure what the answer is.

      Perhaps it is easier to see composition when the landscape is stripped. Perhaps I am improving (!), or becoming more deliberate. Perhaps Olmsted's park design is hard to photograph badly. For instance, Pier One, Brooklyn Bridge Park, as much as I like it, is hard to photograph. It's one interruption after another, and all those blasted, awful light poles.

  4. Love the juxtaposition (wow. never actually typed that word before!) of the witch hazel flowers with the dead leaves, and the wonderful colors. Need to find a place to plant one around here.

  5. Never too cold. Just had grilled halloumi in the garden with snow gently drifting down...


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