This last week has taught me a lot about the outdoors and what it means to different people. As many of you know, I have been in New York State for almost two weeks. Over the years I have been blessed to spend hundreds of hours both fishing and hunting in that spectacular place. I got a very different perspective though on the outdoors when I spent the last four days of my vacation deep in New York City.
For someone that loves the wide-open spaces and solitude I wasn’t real sure how I would take to the Big Apple. I was excited to see it though because I love history and the East coast is just full of that. Every few steps across the concrete led to a new historical discovery.
During this trip, I was able to actually see what urban life is like for real residents there. I spent time with a friend of my wife’s who lives in a one-room studio that shares a common bathroom and kitchen. Yikes! I couldn’t imagine, but that is reality for many of those who live among the eight millions individuals who call New York City home.
It didn’t take long to realize that no matter how hard you tried, it was impossible to be completely alone and find a quiet space. Even if you sat in a hotel or apartment, the bustle of urban life was screaming at you through the windows. Horns were blasting, sirens were screaming, even street bands were jamming their tunes late into the darkness. There was always someone around.
Then I noticed a man feeding pigeons in City Hall Park. As my family walked through there I couldn’t help but watch him. There were literally dozens of people passing right in front of him, but he didn’t notice one person. He was sitting contently, holding his hand out, and letting the pigeons come and peck feed from his palm. Soon a squirrel joined the birds and would literally come right to him and grab an easy meal from his fingers.
The expression on his face was complete peace. There were no signs of frustration, stress from too many people, or visible indicators of the urban grind. He was happy. He was outdoors and enjoying nature in a way that seemed so simple and fulfilling.
When we walked through Central Park I was also blown away at how important a little greenery can be for those who rarely see any. The rolling landscape of this urban wonder was full of people laying in the sun, playing Frisbee with their friends, going for a stroll, or just simply sitting on a rock and reading a book.
Those folks who call New York City home were enjoying the outdoors as much as we do here in the Midwest. It was every bit as important for them to let nature recharge their souls and get things back in order. They need the outdoors just like we do.
It was interesting to see how a simple space, like a public park, is used so differently in the city. Our parks are nice, people take their kids there, and we may pass through them now and then. The parks in the city though are used by all ages, constantly, and are a must. Many of us have backyards that would qualify as amazing parks in New York City. It’s all about perspective.
I really don’t think that I could live in a city the size of the Big Apple. I need my ability to get away and have some peace and quiet. Yes, it is really nice to have so many things to do and world-class museums and attractions around every corner, but visiting for a while was just right.
However, I do now understand how important it is to find green space, natural space, an outdoor space, that we can use to recharge our inner selves. New Yorkers appreciate that space more than I ever gave them credit for. They taught me a lot.