The Easter Egg Effect . . .
The emotional appeal of wildflowers, especially those found growing in an urban setting, can to me be summed up in something I like to call “The Easter Egg Effect” – that feeling of excitement, instigated by discovery, akin to a child finding a pastel egg hidden within the grass in the backyard. I began Wildflowers of West Village just under a year ago after one such pivotal moment. I was walking with my wife on a pleasant Sunday afternoon on the first day of spring. The Hudson flowed to our right as the park on our left became bathed in the thin setting sunlight of the Equinox. My eye caught sight of a patch of pale blue Siberian squill flowering at the base of a tree. The rest of the surrounding parkscape remained primarily brown, so the presence of living color stood out even more distinctly. We headed home, feeling rejuvenated by the first visible sign of the natural world’s reawakening, and simultaneously the idea for a new nature writing project began to bloom.
This year I first felt The Easter Egg Effect on the opposite end of the Christian Lenten calendar; during its opening week, just after Ash Wednesday. I was out for a walk yet again, this time along a unique Manhattan greenway: The High Line, one of the most popular public destinations in the West Village. Once an abandoned elevated railroad spur, the former West Side Line was converted over a decade into a belt stretching from its terminus on Gansevoort Street north to West 20th Street. After opening in 2009, the response was immediate and enthusiastic. Flanked by impressive architecture like the Standard Hotel and Frank Gehry’s futuristic IAC Building, the park’s benches, art installations, and plantings attract models, rock stars, and tourists from around the globe. They can be found daily socializing as well as photographing and filming themselves, distant views of the Hudson River, and close up portraits of this unique urban green space, which also happens to be my front yard.
As a writer focused on outdoor sports and nature, I find it ironic that Fate has me residing around the corner from this premiere example of urban nature. Beyond that, the greenway provides me a quick and traffic-free route uptown. Often, to the bemusement of international tourists, I can be found carrying dress shirts and spare hangers in hand on the way to my dry cleaner on 18th Street. I like to think the sight of me going about my mundane daily business portrays me as a goodwill ambassador from the neighborhood, a reminder to visitors that regular people with daily lives – and chores – reside here, too.
So it was that during a run to the dry cleaners I caught sight of an initial sign of the impending spring: a pastel purple crocus, Crocus vernus, starting to flower beside the rust brown rails of the High Line. The blooms, still cupped and closed, even resembled colored eggs.
Later in the week I found another variety, the Dutch Yellow Crocus, Crocus flavus, coloring the gardens of St. Luke in the Fields.
Along the hedge line of Hudson River Park I found an entire croci community of white Crocus vernus about to flower.
While not wildflowers in the pure definition, most varieties in the Crocus genus have gone feral or become naturalized to the extent that the distinction between wild and cultivated has become blurred. The presence of their blooms in unexpected places – like an elevated railway or a corner of a vacant lot in Manhattan – appears like a shiny penny in the gutter, or a decorated egg in the backyard. Embodied in such sudden wild flowering, the joy of spring is evinced by The Easter Egg Effect.
– rPs 03 14 2011
Postscript . . .
The High Line and Friends of the High Line maintain a website for more background information – http://www.thehighline.org – and remember, if you do visit, look don’t touch. As the sign says . . .