I took myself for a walk on Sunday, just before it snowed again. Up here in Harlem we are that much closer to Inwood, at Manhattan's northern tip. A walk over to the A, and then about fifteen minutes on the subway put me at 207th Street. From Brooklyn it would take about forty-five minutes.
Inwood does not have Central Park's money. Mostly, I imagine, because it is in a working class neighborhood, and you don't get many multi-million dollar donations to a private park fund, here. You can't accuse the streets that border Central Park, on the Upper West and East Sides, of being working class.
I like this park, very much. While there are large ball fields on its edges, which in summer sing with the thwacks of baseball bats, the woods within are deep, and usually empty. And I know it is loved. The man who spent four hours in frigid temperatures stripping and re-coating our clawfoot bath recently lives in Inwood, and was surprised when I told him I knew that park. That's our park! he said. He was Puerto Rican. There are many artists and musicians up here, too, because the rents are still within the realm of possibility.
So, not rich people. Not close. But tax-paying. Which is why I believe a city government should fund its parks. Maybe with a new mayor, we'll see a shift in civic attitude towards our less well-heeled green spaces.
(Gee. I bet no one misses these little rants of mine. It's Litter Mob déjà vu all over again.)
...and which is all just a long-winded way of saying, only one path here was cleared of snow. In Central Park every single path is cleared within minutes, it seems, of a snowfall. It's impressive.
Some enthusiasts were playing football.
And ice, ice, everywhere, all the way to the Henry Hudson Bridge. Longest of its kind in the world in 1936.
Even under heavy snow cover there were plenty of signs of an edible spring. Burdock...
...and pokeweed, below.
You can hear Robert Frost, can't you?
Crunch, crunch, crunch. The snow in the middle of the path was hardpacked, but on the edges you still broke through the frozen layer.
The hill above is the same one as the hill below, whose photo was taken in mid March, 2012.
What will this year be like? What will we find on the first spring walk on March 24th? Sign up and see...
I crunched south.
I passed the spot where I met the Korean man some springs ago. The one with the tame woodpecker and the art etched onto the forest floor.
No one was there, but someone had left seed for the birds.
They scattered as I walked up. You can't sneak up on anyone or anything in snow like this. It's like hearing a mastodon approach on a sea of egg shells.
But once I'd stood still for long enough they came back. There were five cardinals, and juncos and house finches. Just like on the Harlem terrace. And some chickadees, too. High in an old tree I counted five downy woodpeckers at work on different branches. I've never seen them congregate, like that.
I made out two organic shapes on a branch and, looking closer through my lens, saw that they were doves - not moving a feather. Sleepy and cold. The temperature felt mild by our new, polar vortex standards, at just below freezing.
I spent another half hour in the woods before turning to crunch out again.
Back on the streets of Inwood I found a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint and bought a slice ( I had a choice of cheese or cheese) and slurped it at a ragged table. It was delicious, well seasoned with hot red pepper.
And then I went home.