Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The far north

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?

I did.

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.


  1. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice..........

  2. I'd love to frame the photo with the 3 points of red, the cardinals.
    It's snowing in Georgia this morning, beautiful at the moment, but expected to be hazardous soon. The Governor is busy trying to save face considering the last winter storm debacle.It's the ice that is the problem here. It's not that we get snow on top of snow, crunchy and with some traction; we get snow on top of a sheet of ice.

    1. Been thinking about your ice storm Diane. Hope all is well.

      I'd be happy to send you a digital copy of the photo but as I said to HelsBels (...) the quality is not actually very good, upon close inspection.

  3. What a lovely post, Marie! The shot of the three cardinals is amazing. Those three will be rivals come spring. Did you do a post on your meeting the old Korean man? If so, could you point us to it, s'il vous plait? Thanks for sharing your walk with us.

    Nancy Mc

  4. Ah, cardinals - that pop of red in a snowy woods is one of my deep pleasures. And the sleepy doves, my mother's favorite bird, and now one of mine. Lovely post, thank you. And I do think of Robert Frost every time I see photos like yours. I've memorized so many of his over the years but that one and The Road Not Taken are the best.

  5. Loved the pic of three cardinals until I saw the next shot. It's enough to make me start saving for a digital 36 mm! So glad you are enjoying your new 'hood.

    Does pizza come in anything other than cheese?

    1. Pizza comes with toppings. No toppings, there.

      While I remember - every since you made the glass table top suggestion for the Harlem terrace, I've been thinking about it. It was really a very good idea. It would look good. My only problem is that I plan to shoot food on it, come longer days and warmer weather. And glass...reflects.


    2. Linen table cloth.

  6. As the page loaded a voice in my head was reciting Frost...A beautiful post, Marie.And you're right about the wealth being thinly distributed.I remember seeing a bobcat clearing the sidewalk on 5th Avenue...and then, walking back from Bergen Street, an old man was using a shovel...

  7. Looks perfect for snowshoeing, Marie!

  8. Beautiful post. You need to sell prints of your photos. I would LOVE the one with the 3 cardinals.

    I've had a small flock of doves try to get get warm (and get away from our local falcon) on my porch for the last month, ever since the first hit from the polar vortex. It's so lovely to see them every morning, despite the "presents" they leave on the furniture.

    1. Thank you...

      Actually the quality is not good enough for print. the cardinals are no well in focus. Shaky hand with telephoto. I'd be happy to send you a digital file but if you print any larger than the photo on the screen you'll see the defect.

  9. I love your blog Marie. It is a reminder of the beauty and joy that can be found around you if you take the time to look.

  10. What a gorgeous shot of the mottled grey tree trunks against the backdrop of snow & then the 3 beautiful dots of Cardinal red.....superb!!!

  11. Beautiful, thank you

  12. the cardinals are amazing. i thought they were more territorial then this as i've never seen 3 males so close. my parents always have a nesting pair and i've seen sparing for their backyard but never 3 males at rest.

    1. And there were five. Could not fit them all in.

  13. Net time you are in Inwood, visit the Indian Road Cafe, one of my fave spots in upper Manhattan, and a frequent destination for a long Sunday bike ride along and up the Hudson. Nice view of Spuyten Duyvell from it's entrance across from the park.


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