April 12, 2008

Spring in the City

Today was so beautiful that I set out to do some of my Saturday errands on foot. As I walked through the neighborhoods of Queens I was struck by the beauty of spring in New York. The real New York.

Of course Manhattan is New York, with 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center, but that’s not where the life of the city is. That’s in the numerous small neighborhoods and communities. Spring comes early to midtown. I walk past carts of forced flowers for the Today Show every morning. Diligent city workers have filled the large cement planters of 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Plaza with daffodils that are already in full bloom. One day, overnight, they will be replaced by tulips.

But spring arrived in my neighborhood this week. Barren tree are pushing out buds, puffs of flowers hover around the gnarled branches. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hostas and flowers I can’t name have pushed their way through the earth to welcome back the sun. Magnolia trees are in full glory. The building and most trees are still bare, but buds and flowers abound.

At this time of year I am always surprised, joyfully, at how nature has maintained it’s foothold in this paved over city. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, indeed. And flowers bloom in Queens.

Green shoots push though every possible crack. Place where bricks have been prized up. Iron strong tree roots push up and break sidewalk squares, making room for verdant grass and ever smiling dandelions.

As I walk, I can’t help myself. I have to take pictures of the juxtaposition of city and nature. Bright life growing around the drab remainders of our grey winter hibernation. Flowers don’t know from fences, they wiggle through and pull themselves up to share their light. Greenery creeps and snakes along fences and walls. Trees become balls of color.

Soon people will come out of hiding, infected by the new life that’s spreading. Jackets will be shed, midriffs will be bared, car windows will open to spill music into the streets. The neighborhood will re-emerge. Slowly, picking up momentum, life will seep out of shuttered homes onto porches, into the streets.

This is the New York everyone should know. Ethnic food on every corner, perfuming the air so that you can find your way by smell. Socks, trinkets anything you could want for sale on every block. Folk of all ages strutting and preening in their colorful best stretching their style after a bundled up winter. Neighborhoods boisterous with life from within, each stocked with their own cast of characters.

As I walk in the sun, sharing its glow with the daffodil next to me, I remember the joy of quieter springs past. But this miracle of life, rebirth amongst the huge apartment blocks, elevated trains and paved streets resonates more. It’s as if the blooming of the first flower brings the whole city back to light and life after the grey, dreary winter.