Winter in the city is underrated. People who don’t live here think that city dwellers huddle around the radiator, dashing from apartment to subway to work, and then reversing that trip in the evening. The reality is that we get out in all kinds of weather, and the cold is no barrier to a walk in the park, in fact it might even add something to your stroll.
There is a strip of land that sits between the West Side Highway and the Hudson River. Technically it is part of Riverside Park, but until about 10 years ago it was totally undeveloped. Now there is a paved bike and walking path, part of the bike trail that circles the island of Manhattan. You can get to this escape from the city from either 125th street or inside the park and the 98th street highway turnaround. Once you start this walk there is no exit, going forward or back are the only options.
During good weather this path is a mecca for bikers and runners. It also draws people who want to sit and watch the river go by. On a cold December day it was almost deserted and, dressed for the cold, I decided to take a walk along the water. I really enjoy being out by myself. I am an introvert, and I enjoyed walking through the open space. I lost myself, listening to my ipod. The view along the river was serene and as I turned my back on the highway traffic I took in the water and the trees. As I walked north through the park, my eyes were drawn back again and again to the George Washington Bridge towering in the distance.
Between the wind off of the river and breeze generated cars speeding by, the cold was biting at first. My fingers were icicles inside my gloves, and the traffic provided a constant rumble that penetrated through the episodes of The Moth and This American Life coming through my earphones. The cold and the noise cocooned me. They embraced me and separated me from the world. They brought my thoughts in from the outside. My focus narrowed to individual trees and rocks. The shapes of nature filled my eyes and my imagination. My mind framed the photos. Where is the light coming from? Where do the shadows fall? Color or Black and White?
It became meditative, and the feeling of cold slipped away. I moved on, from one picture to the next. My fingers moved smoothly over the camera, set the f-stop and exposure, focus, snap, move on, set the f-stop, focus, snap. The next thing I knew, I had completed the mile and a half walk. No longer cold, I peeled out of the park and headed back to my car, parked a mile away. Now, all I felt was tired, my feet were sore, so I took a bus back downtown. As I warmed up, I came back to the world. Voices invaded my space, along with the traffic on Broadway. I scrolled through the photos in my camera, but I already knew which ones I wanted to use.