Walking The Old Growth Forest in NYBG

The best days include poetry, long walks, sunshine, and excellent company. It seems that our weekends have been filled with work-related commitments and our time for long walks has increasingly diminished over the past few weeks. So today we snuck away from responsibility and headed up to the Bronx to attend the opening of Monet’s Garden at the New York Botanical Gardens. A little known fact about the Botanical Gardens is that it’s home to the largest tract of old growth forest in New York City and one of the largest old growth forests in the state. While tourists from around the world flooded the Haupt Conservatory and the gift shops, we walked the trails of the old growth forest for some solace and silence. From a walker’s perspective, the Botanical Gardens are a fascinating ethnographic study. We spent our time on the way to the forest trying to alternately outrun the NYBG tram and not be plowed down by it. So many folks experience the gardens by tram with a pre-recorded flora and fauna narrative tract; they are missing so much. The best parts of the park are off-road and frequently untravelled.

After our walk in the woods, we were ready for the Monet exhibitions and arrived at the Mertz Library. The guards immediately suggested that we take the elevator to the fifth floor, warning us that there were over 65 steps to the top. Since we live in a building with probably double the amount of steps, which we walk up at least once a day, we were happy to take the stairs. The staircase was adorned with all of these PSA slogans from NY’s Let’s Move- trying to motivate the walker to continue to the top. I was reminded of what a good friend had recently said to me about walking the Coast to Coast, “Remember, you’re walking, not running. You’re a walker. You’ve always been a walker. Essentially, you’ve been training for this since you were like two.” Among a sedentary culture, we are an anomaly. Of course we won’t know until we arrive in the UK, but we’re feeling pumped for the Coast to Coast walk.

As for the exhibition, the color palette inside the conservatory were exquisitely curated and reminded me that Giverny is one of the spots on my places to visit before I die list. The water lilies are not yet in full bloom, but the beauty in the exhibit is that it will evolve over the coming seasons and we’ll probably head back later in the summer to see the ripening palettes. In an interesting collaboration with the Poetry Society of America, the gardens outside of the Haupt Conservatory are curated with 19th C. French poems in an exhibition titled, “Monet to Mallarme.” We wandered among the poems and the flowers and listened to a lecture/reading by some contemporary poets and scholars who work with the poems in translation. Every time I work with a translator or listen to a translation series, I am reminded of the limits of the English language and am so envious of those who can move fluidly between languages.

One of the best parts of today was that we tested out all of our gear and I am so glad that I went with the Tevas and the Smartwool and the break-away khaki hiking pants. Everything was comfortable. My only regret is that I have yet to buy a camera, the last item remaining on our shopping list. Can’t wait for our trip! Time together is so important and so rare. We’re so fortunate to have this time together.

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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2 Responses to Walking The Old Growth Forest in NYBG

  1. robertajune says:

    Really enjoyed this post, especially getting off the beaten track. Agree with you it’s a struggle to break free at times but the sense of liberation when you do – it’s like a tonic! Thanks and happy walking 🙂

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