Placidly Seeking Emerson


After seeing the Monet garden exhibit, it was time to enjoy the rest of the place.

There is nothing like being in the presence of mature specimen trees, particularly if they are well-tended, and have had plenty of room to spread out their branches, amidst acres of beautiful lawns and lovely gardens.  Not to mention the opportunity to actually walk through the last remaining patch of old growth forest that remains in New York City.

That, in particular, is probably a trigger for the inner pantheist lurking within most visitors to the botanical gardens, a sense of connection to “unimproved” Nature that comes out when away from machinery, steel and glass, suffocating concrete, teeming hordes, and the pervasive noise of what passes for urban civilization.

It’s why such places continue to exist.

But first, it was time to buy a hat, as the sun was climbing higher in the sky, and it was getting hot.  So I ambled down to the NYBG shop.  You can locate the shop, as well other places I visited, here.

I bought an embroidered cap, which was a little more expensive than the others on display.  Isn’t my cap fabulous?

Since the NYBG is such a big place, I had to have a plan, as I had no intention of taking the packed tram on a sterile, motorized tour, that would rush by everything, with some tour guide’s disembodied, canned voice droning on, pointing out the sights.  I just hate that sort of thing.  It’s important to be able to stop, when you feel like it, to smell the roses.

(Coincidentally, a week after my visiting Peggy Rockefeller’s Rose Garden, the following article appeared in the NY Times.  It concerns the research performed at the NYBG for roses that can thrive without chemicals.)

Anyway, I decided to take one of the trails (which follow paths once used by the Wiechquaesgeck, a Lenape tribal group wiped out by the early Dutch colonists) that runs through the 50-acre, uncut old growth forest, known as the Native Forest, then finish things up with a leisurely stroll through the decorative conifers section.

Here’s the start of my walkabout.  Notice the split-rail fencing that borders the trail.  Eight thousand feet of fence have been installed during the restoration that is now underway.

Some of the sights I came across while inside the old growth forest included a lovely waterfall, courtesy of the Bronx River, a cute fire hydrant, and a bridge that was once featured on Sesame Street!

Much of the Native Forest is being replanted with native species, as part of the ongoing restoration – such as red, white, and black oaks, tulip trees, sweet gums, and spice bush.

One can also find American Elm trees along the Spicebush Trail in the forest. These beautiful elm trees have been spared Dutch Elm Disease, and are considered sacred relics of what used to be here. Few trees compare to the beauty of an American elm—its overall form, bark, and buttress roots.

During my hike through the Native Forest, I sat for a while on a log that had been converted into a sort of roughly hewn bench.  Though I didn’t manage to take pictures of any of them, the music of the forest birds was absolutely divine.  (Later, while taking a break at one of the pagodas elsewhere in the park, I even caught a glimpse of a red-tailed hawk zipping by.)

What a contrast to the thumping  sounds blasting out from the car radios, earlier, when I was entering this place!  It’s human nature to make a lot of noise, but maybe part of getting a little older is realizing that stillness and quiet and appreciating the beauty of one’s surroundings is more enriching that carrying on loudly, like some frantically clueless chatterbox.

I suppose this is why I’m so temperamentally suited to needlepoint stitching, which I can sit (or stand) and do, in focused and contented silence, for hours at a time.

Next, I’ll show you pictures of the conclusion of my walking tour:  the majestic ornamental conifer garden and evergreens, including a stunning black oak tree that was a sapling at the time of the American Revolution, a gorgeously restored stone mill, a rock formation that dates back hundreds of millions of years, and other goodies!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Images may be republished under


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