September 20, 2009

New York Botanical Garden, Past Bloom

The weather was gorgeous and summery on Saturday, so after hiding in my apartment for most of the daylight, I forced myself out to enjoy it. It was already too late in the day for any serious hiking undertaking, or any exploration too far out of the boroughs, so I braved the Bronx once again to visit the New York Botanical Garden for the first time.

I'd visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the Cherry Blossom Festival a few years ago, and I guess expected something similar in the Bronx. But it is fall, after all, and most of the summer blossoms of daffodil, tulip, magnolia and lilac are nowhere to be seen. Still, summer is not yet a distant memory, so most of the leaves haven't turned yet, making for a nice walk without much to see.

Still, the Botanical Garden is a sprawling offering of nature, with boulders and trees and even some forest trails.

And the Stone Mill by the Bronx River, being rehabilitated, hopefully ready to open next fall.

Although it was still open, the rose garden's blooms are past peak, with most roses fully open and many starting to shrivel.

Since walking through the front gate, I'd come across many families and couples exploring the gardens with me, but once again, I was alone. As I departed the Rose Garden, a security guard asked me if he could give me directions. I showed him my map and muttered something about the oramental conifers - not that I cared at all about them, but at least it would be something to see, and on the way out.

"Have you seen the waterfall yet?" he asked.

"Yeah, I was down over there and crossed the river over the bridge," I offered, unenthused.

"But you didn't see the waterfall," the security guard prodded.

When I explained that I'd seen it from above, he started to tell me about the paths that go right down to the river.

"Yeah, but I didn't want to go down there by myself..." I interrupted.

He looked at me, smiling, eyes bulging. "Now, it's not that kind of environment in here. In here, you're safe. With me around, you'll be OK down there."

I returned his glare doubtfully. The corner of my mouth turned down as I told him, "I've had a bad summer..."

I thanked him and turned away, towards the conifers, before he could see my eyes tear up. I pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my head and squinted into a tiny sob, squeezing out just a tear or two as I plodded along.

I'm sure the security guard believed he was right, but he was the only one of his kind that I'd seen in the entire park, and certainly nowhere near the Bronx River Greenway that loomed dark and dingy below.

I'm glad I got to see it, but my visit to the New York Botanic Garden on Saturday felt perfunctory. I didn't really want to be there. It was simply on the list of places I'd never been.

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