So many times we think we have to go to exotic places to capture the beauty of nature, when one can often find it in one’s neighborhood. I have lived in this section of Elmhurst, Queens nearly all my life. My particular block is not very picturesque to say the least. My rather old building is only three stories high, yet I’m surrounded by other brick apartment buildings that are at least eight stories high. I can’t see sunrises nor sunsets, not the stars at night. From each and every window all I see is brick and concrete which is to be honest, rather depressing. In fact, where I live, most of my neighborhood is like this, so for a nature lover like myself, it’s rather frustrating since I long to be in a country setting instead and be surrounded by trees, flowers, birds, and fluttering butterflies.
To get my sense of the beauty of nature, every once in awhile, I just have to take a short vacation. No, I don’t go to the Galapagos Islands, or Bermuda, or some quaint English countryside for my nature “fix” but merely walk a few blocks away from me, in which my neighborhood miraculously transforms into a bit of the countryside. Instead of high rise apartment buildings, there instead are private two family homes, and almost all have one thing in common…spectacular gardens in which their floral array changes as the months change.
In the early spring, I can see pink, purple or white hyacinths, small delicate crocus, a field of daisies, the bright sunny, cheerful daffodils and azaleas galore. Spring blossoms are by then on the trees which are sprouting out, and I can see dogwood, cherry, and apple blossom flowers. After a cold, harsh winter, seeing such beautiful flowers heralding spring is a breath of fresh air. A few months pass, and the next group of beautiful flowers are in bloom: Irises, Black-eyed Susans, Lilies of all kinds from Tiger to Daylilies, and tall, gigantic Sunflowers. At one private two family home, there exists a small canopy and trellis set up to grow grapes, and yes, the owners of the home make their own wine.
Being a photographer, you just know I’m lugging around my rather heavy film camera equipment with me taking photo after photo. In this part of my neighborhood, it truly is another world and there is a peaceful serenity. Instead of the hustle and bustle of pedestrian and vehicle noise of my particular block, there is a wonderful, peaceful silence and I can actually hear the twitter of a variety of birds, from chatty Sparrows, the cawing of Crows, the sad sound of a Mourning Dove, to the noisy ear-piercing BlueJay. Very little traffic comes down this particular long stretch of winding and meandering streets, one doesn’t even bump into too many people here–ah, what can I say, I’m in heaven. And some days as I venture out and walk about to photograph, I’m lucky enough to capture a gorgeous looking butterfly nestled gently on a flower…talk about being at the right place and time!
How often do we skip the magnificent beauty that surrounds us, even if one lives in a busy city type environment? If one is willing to walk about a bit, I’m just betting you’ll find your own piece of nature’s beauty, and a peaceful blissfulness that can recharge the soul. Every year for the past ten years, I’ve made my mini-vacations a ritual and is something I never grow tired of doing for myself. For me it’s a little bit of country in the middle of a city and best of all, it’s only a few blocks away.