Today I ventured from Brooklyn 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, arriving late this year. And, I wanted to take some shots of the park’s 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, my preferred way of exploring ever since I received my Nikon camera. While photographing the park’s beautiful vistas, I came across monuments I’d never seen before. Thanks to my new-found appreciation for walking without a map, I also stumbled across a crowd of fans 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 and 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 step into its perimeter. Although thousands of residents and tourists descend 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 Street to 110th Street and extends from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West. The Park has been described as ‘America’s first and foremost major urban public space’. 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
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 in front of a monument,to ponder a plaque dedication.
“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” John Lennon
A major discovery was Literary Walk, lined with huge monuments of playwright Shakespeare, Scottish poet Robert Burns… and for some reason, Christopher Columbus. From here, the pathway continues to the adjoining Mall. Though I had never witnessed this part of the park’s literary influence, I am familiar with The Mall, a promenade lined with towering elm trees, which makes for a dramatic lead up to a staircase that descends toward the beautiful Bethesda Fountain. It is no wonder that this is the most photographed part of the park.
“Living is easy with eyes closed.” John Lennon
Shakespeare in the Park
The Park hasn’t always enjoyed great fanfare. In the 1970’s, 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.” Crime ridden, littered, and a hotbed for graffiti, Central Park was hardly a respite from the Big City despite its National Historic Landmark designation (1963). In 1980, a ‘group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders’ rallied together and founded 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.
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 alive 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 rippled surface reflected the yellow and orange leaves on the trees.
“Love is like a flower-you’ve got to let it grow.” John Lennon
The Bow Bridge
After what seemed like five minutes, but more realistically two hours, the sun had 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”, and I am glad to have been a small part of the celebratory gathering. (I sing out of tune, so thought it would be unfair to participate, 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
A gathering of fans
Today, I came away from Central Park with a completely new appreciation for it. I can’t wait to go back in spring, to explore the park once again, and to experience the changing foliage.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon