Friday, September 18, 2015

peach trees and honeybees

From the peaks of the Himalayas to the sandy beaches of Orissa, there is no other country like the wild, warm, spicy, exotic, dangerous, hospitable nation of India.

It is an entire sub-continent suspended between abundance and destitution. It is deeply divided by class, by language, by religion, by gender, by many different people and their customs.
What unites it is wonder, awe.

Each corner of this vast country hides something beautiful to be discovered, something unique and precious to be shared with the world.

Mother found that among the poorest of the poor in Kolkata. She saw these starving beggars as Jesus, thirsting for our love. She has helped millions answer the call: I thirst.

While it's easy to complain about New York City's lack of nature, especially now, when Minnesotan markets are boasting honeycrisp apples, and Lake Harriet's shores are molting into a crimson throng of maples, there are certain places in the city that are full of simple delight of nature. Not Central Park. Central Park's trees are already shedding their leaves, although they haven't even turned a proper color yet, just a dun-like brown, or sometimes a weak, insipid yellow. Nothing like the full-bodied golds and scarlets of the Midwestern autumnal forests.

But enough homesickness.

There is a garden on the corner of Houston and Bowery.

The garden on the corner of Houston and Bowery is a saving grace. It is a small remanant of what was once a large farm. Try to picture a large farm on Manhattan. It's hard. This farm belonged to Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam. I love this fact, because it reminds me that the island of Manhattan was not always a concrete jungle, but maybe was once an actual jungle, and if not that, at least a semi-rural area in some of the northern regions. It lends the island of Manhattan more dignity, to think of it as more than just a giant canvas for graffiti artists.

The garden's name is no longer "Governor Stuyvesant's Farm" but "Liz Christy Community Garden", and it is named after Liz Christy, who was a New York woman in the 1970's, and part of a group of "gardening activists" called the Green Guerillas. And if you aren't obsessed with this Jane Goodall of tulip patches after reading that, get a heart. What's not to love about Liz Christy? She probably lived in Nolita before Nolita was a thing, and inhabited by bougie French perfume shops and white betches sipping Blue Bottle Coffee while wearing Lululemon leggings as pants.

And it is beautiful.
It is something out of Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, and you expect Mary Lenox or Sara Crewe to be wandering about in there, with an Indian guardian in tow.

It has a wild air of magic that is so natural and easy. The rest of SoHo tries to recreate this natural beauty in the bustle of shops and tea stores and over priced Italian gelato ice cream sandwiches.

But the Liz Christy garden is filled with sunlight filtering through vines of the trees. The trees are laden with fruit--with peaches, actually. So rich and lush, your hand reaches up to pluck them off the branch.
The paths are lined with large day lilies and all manner of colored flowers.
Lovers are splayed across park benches, lounging in each others' laps, and basking in the warmth of the sunlight and in one another. There are aspiring monastics walking through the tangled paths, reading and meditating, out of the harsh cacophony the city's symphony of sirens and street noises.

There are honeybees floating from stem to stem, and I float along the paths and suddenly I am hungry for mango. A sweet, ripe mango, dripping juice from each bite.
I want a mango. I am trying to remember what a mango tastes like. And a sweet lassi. And sweet curd. I'm trying to imagine sweet lassi, cold as ice. The cube of curd floating in the thick, sweet liquid.
I am hungry for India.

But I am back in New York, and I will buy an overpriced Italian gelato ice cream sandwich, and wander through the gardens that smell like earth after a rainstorm, and the sunlight will bask down on my face, and I will be lost in a warm ecstasy of fading summer, laced with the crisp notes of autumn breeze and homesickness.

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