Central Park Reflections… with a little help from John Lennon

Today I ventured to Central Park for a couple of reasons. One, I was scared that I’d miss the chance to stroll the park’s beautiful walkways before winter, slow to arrive this year. And, I wanted to take some photos autumnal foliage. Who knows if I’ll have the opportunity to experience Central Park during a lengthy fall again?

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” John Lennon

I set out without a route in mind, which has become my preferred way of exploring with the Nikon camera. Two cases in point: While photographing the park’s beautiful vistas, I came across monuments I’d never seen before. And, I stumbled across a crowd paying tribute to John Lennon, one of the most loved songwriters and singers of our time.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Central’s Park Lake and Boathouse (background)

Like many parks  located in busy cities – Hyde Park in London, Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris – Central Park is a respite from the bustle. Located in the middle of a vertical urban grid, the park brings about a sense of peace as soon as you enter its perimeter. Although thousands of residents and tourists come here on any given day – to relax, to visit the Zoo, to skate Wollman Rink – there are parts of the park where you feel as if you’re the only one there.

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” John Lennon

Spread across 843 acres (3.41 km2), Central Park runs the length of 59th to 110th Streets and extends from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West. The Park has been described as “America’s first and foremost major urban public space”[1]. Its design was based on plans drawn up by landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calbert Vaux in 1858 (they are also the minds behind Brooklyn’s Prospect Park).

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” John Lennon

Surface reflections

Central Park’s labyrinth of pathways, meadows, bridges, and undulating hills takes a few hours to enjoy. I found myself stopping and starting – to pause at a monument, to ponder a plaque dedication, to watch reflections dance on a pond.

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” John Lennon

Plaque dedication

Benches

My major discovery was Literary Walk, a pathway lined with huge monuments of playwright Shakespeare, Scottish poet Robert Burns… and for some reason, Christopher Columbus. From here, the route continues to the adjoining Mall, a promenade lined with towering elm trees leading up to a staircase that descends toward the beautiful Bethesda Fountain. It no wonder that this dramatic setting is the most photographed part of the park.

“Living is easy with eyes closed.” John Lennon

Shakespeare in the Park

The Mall

The Park hasn’t always enjoyed such fanfare. In the 1970s, it experienced severe decline as “years of poor management and inadequate maintenance had turned a masterpiece of landscape architecture into a virtual dustbowl by day and a danger zone by night.”[2] Once crime ridden and a hotbed of litter and graffiti, Central Park was hardly a respite from the city despite its landmark status (1963). In 1980, a “group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders”[3] rallied together to found The Central Park Conservancy. Together with the City of New York they work towards a common goal:

“to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations”[4].

Stairwell artwork (leading to Bethesda Fountain). The stonework on this particular balustrade represents winter, old age, evening

It was at the Bow Bridge, one of the Park’s five original cast-iron bridges, where I photographed more beautiful landscapes. Carefully tended to by Conservancy crews, the area is filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers. From here, you can see the green-roofed Boathouse to the east; glittery weeping willows to the south; and bare sycamore trees backed by Central Park West to the north west. I spotted ducks on the grand lake, whose ripples reflected the yellow and orange leaves of the trees.

“Love is like a flower-you’ve got to let it grow.” John Lennon

The Boathouse

The Bow Bridge

After what seemed like five minutes, but more realistically two hours, the sun started to set, and I made my way towards the 72nd Street exit, the location of Strawberry Fields and its Imagine memorial, dedicated to the late John Lennon by Yoko Ono. Which is when I walked into a crowd singing Beatles’ songs in unison. I learned it was the 31st anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and as has been customary every year since 1980, fans gathered around the mosaic — now covered in flowers, candles, momentos and messages — singing ‘Imagine’ and ‘Come Together’ to the strum of a guitar. It was a touching dedication to an icon, “known for his social activism and anti-war rhetoric. He was a praised figure, full of wit and wisdom”[5], and I was glad to have played a part in the celebratory gathering. (I didn’t know the words, so didn’t sing along, but I enjoyed the scene and took some photos.)

“Now that John’s a spirit, he has a different effect on people than when he was alive.” Yoko Ono[6]

A gathering of fans

‘Imagine’ mosaic

I came away from Central Park with a completely new appreciation for it. I can’t wait to go back in spring, to explore its labyrinth again, to experience its changing foliage.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon


[1] http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/ [2] Blonsky, Douglas. “Saving the Park: a key to NYC’s revival”. The New York Post, 3 November 2007 Op-Ed page [3]http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/ [4] ibid [5] http://www.ibtimes.com [6] ibid

65 thoughts on “Central Park Reflections… with a little help from John Lennon

  1. This is a beautiful post, Marina, and a wonderful insight to Central Park. With the accompaniment of John Lennon, is has made the post most enjoyable, and its worthy of a second read, so that’s what I’m going to do now.

    • Thank you so much. That is such a lovely compliment – I am glad to have been fortunate enough to experience the day, and then write about it. The John Lennon quotes are keepers🙂

  2. It is a very nice essay and commentary. You missed peak autumnal colors by a about 6 weeks. Make sure to return in the spring in late April for the blossoming trees which are spectacular. It’s not quite as well known as the Washington DC cherry trees. In winter covered in a blanket of snow the park is serene. Children sled on the small hills and it is quite festive. Cross country skiers also make paths across the park.

    • Thanks Victor! And, yes, I missed peak autumnal colours though I especially cannot wait until Spring. As you say, the cherry blossoms will be spectacular and I can imagine, alot of fun to photograph. I may venture into the Park during the in winter. I feel I may not be brave enough given the chill factor🙂

  3. Great pics and lovely quotations – Central Park is one of our good memories of New York. I mention this as Jenny and I are dreadful travellers and manage to have a crap wherever we go. So,in consequence, we stay in the French countryside where we always Imost of the time)very happy and content.

    • Thank you Roger. The French countryside sounds like an ideal place to ‘travel without moving’. Judging from your posts and food imagery, you’re doing very well in provincial France. I’m glad to have tapped into a good memory of your NY!

    • Thank you Jenny! As Victor mentioned, I did miss autumn in its prime though New York isn’t going anywhere – and neither is Central Park. Until then, I look forward to Spring. Curating John Lennon’s quotes was really wonderful – I learned alot simply from my adventures yesterday🙂

  4. I’ve never had the chance to explore Central Park, but I’d really, really like to. I love the plaque dedications you photographed! And how lucky that you just happened to stumble upon the John Lennon memorial gathering. It must have been quite lovely.

    • Thank you Marika! It was a memorable day, and when you have the chance to explore Central Park, set aside time to read the plaque dedications. You won’t be disappointed as the messages are so varied and really inspiring🙂

  5. I totally agree with your way to explore places with spontaneity and looking at the details🙂 That’s how I like to do it too. It’s so nice to walk around and find things we were not looking for!

    • Hi Ines! With a camera, absolutely everything seems like a photo worthy opportunity sometimes. I guess with digital we have the luxury of taking as many photos are we want – and losing track in the process🙂 Thank you for your comment!

    • I would so love to go to Paris!! I was in Monet’s world today at the Met – visions of France were all around me. I think i will photograph Central Park in winter. I’ll keep you posted Thank you for your comment!

  6. Excellent post. I felt like I went on the walk with you. One of my favorite activities is to wander around with my camera. I never know what I want to photograph yet I always find something interesting. Thanks for sharing you journey.

  7. Great post! Central Park is an amazing place! It’s over two years since I was there and you really hit my travel nerves with this post. Love one of your quotes from John Lennon: “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”. So easy, and so true!

    Love “the mall”-picture!

    • Thanks so much for commenting about the photos. I’m still trying to adjust for the light and get the balance right with all the settings. Suffice to say, the camera battery doesn’t last too long. I know – it was nice to be part of that gathering and to learn more about John Lennon, especially through his quotes.

  8. Hi! we’ve lived in New York at one time, but not in that part where Central Park is….I now would like to be able to go there – New York, New York – and see for myself, all the lovely places which you have photographed so well.
    Thanks for sharing your amazing photo gallery of New York. All the best of the season.

    • Thank you so much Sydney! Central Park is a neverending discovery as there is so much within the space. Hope fully NY will be in your sights soon so you can see the park – perhaps when it is blooming! Thank you for your comment and Happy Holidays!

  9. Another insightful post and travel through a great park. It is amazing how on foot can make a huge contribution to our daily experience. So often lost as the car races by. Thanks for a great post.

    • Absolutely! I have seen so much more on my walks than views from the car, subway, plane. I love this greater attention to detail, and the camera has helped me realise that. That said, over long distances, I am even considering more train travel versus that of plane as this would be so compelling for seeing new landscapes (and less painful that air travel!) Thank you again!

  10. Lovely post. I was in Central Park in late October, when that early snow storm hit. The leaves were still on the trees (late Autumn as you say), so they caught more of the snow than usual. Loads of broken branches etc. Looked like a bomb site!
    Keep up the blog!
    Tom

  11. Pingback: Musings at The Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC ~ with thanks | Marina Chetner

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