I can’t back this up with hard data, but I do believe New York City is the only place where so many people so stubbornly and proudly wear black in summer. All over the world, people make sacrifices of comfort for the sake of fashion, and vice versa, but there will always be New Yorkers, even during a heat wave, who will refuse to give up their dark uniform. This past week, on days when the humidity was not far behind the 90 degree and rising temperature, I saw more than one woman giving up makeup, high heels, and a stylish hairdo for a more sensible ponytail and sandals, but not the chic little black dress that says “summer in the city.” I guess sometimes cool is more important than cool.
So what did I do on the hottest day of the week? I bought a straw sunhat of course. And what color was it? Black of course. And what did I do with the photos I took on my excursions? Sucked the color out of them as soon as I had them downloaded, of course. NYC is a bright and beautiful place, about as colorful as it gets in all senses of the word. But it’s soul is pure monochrome, as if all those decades of being captured in black ink and black and white film went to its head and it decided – black suits me best.
Roses of Yesterday
My photographic aesthetic sense was born in this context. There is very little you can put in front of me that I will not prefer in black. If I break up my color scheme with a dash of non-black, it’s either because there was no black available, or I was talked out of it, or I figured the rest of the black would look even blacker thanks to the contrast. At any rate, living outside of NYC for the past 11 years, I’ve let my devotion to black lapse a little. Maybe I am not as much of a defiant individualist as I used to be, or decided I don’t need to literally wear my black on – or as – my sleeve, or maybe I just got tired of being a few degrees warmer in summer than everyone else.
Who I Am
So, maybe to remember who I am by honoring who I was, I bought that black hat, a summer hat which will seem inexplicably unsuited to the season to all but the natives of its city of origin. And the day I wear it, with a sorta chic not-so-little black dress, and someone asks me where I’m from and I say New York City, they will reply “of course you are.”
All of the images in this post are from my visit to NYC this past week, from either the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the High Line, which, after only two brief visits is becoming a very close second as my Favorite Place on Earth. The garden is a sanctuary in the midst of urban grayness. But the High Line, which, for all who are unfamiliar with this new attraction, is a park built from an old elevated train line running along the west side of Manhattan, along with the improbable accomplishment of creating a place of protected natural beauty as the BBG does, has retained all its connections to the urban life for which it provides relief and escape.
All the Worlds of the City
The old tracks have been left in place, either embedded in the wooden boards that make up the pathway, or planted with trees and grasses between the ties. For the full mile of its length, you are almost never out of view of both the picturesque architecture and neighborhoods of lower Manhattan and the not so pretty areas of decay and reconstruction. It is the best and worst of all the worlds of the city, an oasis, a contradiction, magic. Of course I’d love it. A green space – with a rail motif? I am writing this post in a moving train with trees whipping past my window. Did the makers of this place eavesdrop on my soul during the planning phases? And it gets better. The southern terminus, now under construction, will be the new offshoot of the Whitney Museum. Nature, trains AND art. Sigh.
One final note. Some weeks back I made a quick trip to BBG to consult a tree about my future. I was told to keep to my circle and feed myself. On this visit I returned to the hemlock to return the gift it made me the last time, a small piece of bark with a red center like a heart. I kid you not – that piece of bark broke in two a few weeks ago right around the time it became clear I was no longer a couple but a single. So I brought back and buried the pieces under the hemlock and asked for a new message and a new gift. I received a miniature cone. This species seems to create cones in clusters of twos and threes, but this one was a single. Then I listened carefully and while I was waiting to hear some words of tree wisdom, I saw that all around me the dark evergreen branches of this tree were sprouting bright light green spines. And I heard it : new growth is possible. As much as I love black, sometimes I need green. And that is why the twin muses of my soul are the two end points of the Ethan Allen line, Rutland VT and NYC, between which I hope to travel for many years to come.