8:45am, Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Greenwood Cemetery

I came here this morning to have a moment of peace and contemplation, to walk among the graves and savor a mini-escape from the city. It is mightily beautiful this time of year. I am struck by the lush shades of green cascading down the grassy, tree-filled hills, all peppered with the gray of tombstones, statuary, and mausoleums.

Walking up one of these hills, looking for a spot to sit in quiet, my thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of loud machinery. I soon saw its source: a worker cutting grass. He turned the machine off briefly out of respect; he and I greeted each other with a wave, our crinkly eyes visible above our masks. I acknowledge the human labor it takes to make this place look so pristine.

I came here this morning to have a moment of peace and contemplation, to walk among the graves and savor a mini-escape from the city. It is mightily beautiful this time of year. I am struck by the lush shades of green cascading down the grassy, tree-filled hills, all peppered with the gray of tombstones, statuary, and mausoleums.

Walking up one of these hills, looking for a spot to sit in quiet, my thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of loud machinery. I soon saw its source: a worker cutting grass. He turned the machine off briefly out of respect; he and I greeted each other with a wave, our crinkly eyes visible above our masks. I acknowledge the human labor it takes to make this place look so pristine.

I found the bench I’d been looking for. I now sit in the same spot I sat on 4.5 years ago with my husband, on our third date. I look out and see the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan to my right. To the left, the water. I can just make out the statue of liberty and the shores of New Jersey. I am getting re-oriented.

Is it possible to ‘escape’ from the city when you still see it in front of you? Is it possible to walk in nature — whatever that really means — in an urban setting? Does bring in nature just mean the opposite of being in a city? That is, away from people and the man-made? If this is true, I have not really escaped the city at all. In the thick of the trees, I am also surrounded by the shadows of tall buildings and the noise of machines and the busy hum of my own thoughts and memories. And, by hundreds of people, resting under the earth. And I realize this is all a comfort, and that I didn’t really need to escape at all.

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