Blogs by Hilary Hopkins

Closer to Home


December 09, 2014 / Persistence

Thanksgiving week we went to New York City and from there to New Jersey to spend the holiday with our older daughter and her family.

In The City (I suppose there is another city, but), I introduced my husband to the pleasures of walking The High Line, the elevated linear park reclaimed from an abandoned rail line.  Now it is thoughtfully tended by a large and enthusiastic group of staff and volunteers, but before it became a park, but after trains no longer ran its rails, plants eagerly colonized all of its spaces and places.  A newly-opened part of the park has preserved those persistent plants in all their marvelousness.  Above you can see a large mullein plant, a pale green rosette with leaves so soft the Indians used to use them as insoles in their moccasins.  Mullein seeds from under a 650 year old church in Denmark, when brought to light and water, sprouted handily. 

Apartments which face The High Line are suddenly the subjects of walkers’ photographs.  I guess they lose some privacy but they gain an unexpected view of what in the warm seasons will be greenery, and in the winter, as now, are elegant seed heads.  Some of those in this image are of evening primrose, a pretty yellow flower, persistent in so-called waste places.

Although I once lived in The City for a year, I was very busy working then.  I never walked in Central Park.   I had no idea!  Crossing from one side to the other, meandering along small paths, we seemed to have been transported to New Hampshire.  But it’s all artificial in a way!

When the great landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted,  planned Central Park in the 1850’s and subsequent decades, all of this land was manipulated by his design, except for the great bedrock upon which The City rests.   Outcrops of this bedrock persist, of course, and all of the fine trees, deliberately chosen and placed, persist too.  And although the great trees and their attendant shrubs are carefully pruned and tended these days, their most profound and ancient machinery persists, of growth, flowering, seeding, and decay. 

After our several days in The City, we went on to New Jersey for the Thanksgiving time.  Our daughter prepared a meal of great abundance.  We took pictures of the table, with the Noble Bird (as my late Mother always used to refer to the roast turkey) having pride of place, the numerous delicious side dishes gracing the table around him, and the seven of us waiting to be seated, each in turn to offer up that for which we were grateful, this year.

I guess in a year of grievous moment, I am especially grateful for the persistence of this American custom, the family dinner, the giving thanks, the gathering round.  I expect that some day, long after I am not here to sit at a Thanksgiving table, the grandsons will be sitting around their own.  It is reassuring to acknowledge the persistence of good things in a swirling world.



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