in any borough of New York City.
Here I am in an ordinary neighborhood of Brooklyn, rather humdrum, really, inspecting and preserving trees, and so many things have a hint of the marvelous.
The human impulse toward landscape adornment reigns supreme.
People here love their cherries.
Doctor Seuss ornamentals.
Their pipsqueak lawns.
Their rose bushes, now hesitantly broaching the subject of spring.
But why wait if an artificial bloom looks just about as lovely on a late winter day?
Their Himalayan cedars, for goodness sake! Who woulda thunk it, on Brooklyn’s 58th Street? Yes, I know, a tree grows in Brooklyn.
I ponder the idea a friend shared today that there may be more trees on Earth than there are stars in the Milky Way. Not all that many trees here, but the ones that do exist are clearly treasured. I’m looking after some young London plane trees today. Someone has to protect them, and at this moment that someone happens to be me. A privilege. Thank you.
Barbara Kingsolver once said something cool. She talked about how important it is “to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And then another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learn to be in love with my life again.” Yes.
Brooklynites love their orthodoxies.
Of all kinds.
The abbreviation INRI stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which translates to Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The reason for this, if you want the abridged version, is because the first complete combined bible was translated by St. Jerome into Vulgate Latin. People became used to the Latin and continued to use INRI. Such an ancient concept in our awfully contemporary age.
I’ve always found the mysticism of the boroughs fascinating. The abundance of shrines.
Might this placid gentleman be some saint or other? I’ve never been good at keeping them straight. They’re all important, though.
The people I meet have a kindliness that I think might surprise folks elsewhere in the country. The foreman at the gigantic construction project down the street pointed me in the direction of the Mobil station down the road where “they have gas! Restrooms! Food! Everything!” And the Rite-Aid clerk proved equally hospitable, glancing once at my reflective vest and waving me on to the employee bathroom.
The belief systems here are deeply ingrained.
Driving down to the Mobil station along Bay Parkway takes you right through the middle of Washington Cemetery. As if on cue, Lucinda Williams comes on the radio: You’ve got to get right with God.
Gigantic, and plunked down right in the middle of this residential neighborhood, the cemetery was founded in Kings County in 1850, outside the independent city of Brooklyn, and from the first served primarily German Jewish immigrants. I feel like I might stumble upon some long-lost relative here.
You can wend your way through the grave plots on paths called Rose, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Aster, Lotus, Evergreen, Cedar, Maple, Cypress, Orange, Sycamore, Spruce, Aspen, Balsam, Oak, Magnolia, Arcadia and Birch. The burial ground has its share of both Yiddish theater stars and gangsters.
Never pass up an opportunity to walk through a cool cemetery. Especially when there are tombstones with photographs, the latest style in death, which has always got something new going on.
And handsome stone lions.
And what must be lambs.
Some of the deceased seem not to have been caught on an especially great day.
But as is often the case in graveyards you can find greenery captured in stone.
And extremely symbolic severed trees.
You know me, I prefer the old-old. The namelessly poetic.
Everything pukka on this ho-hum late winter day.
Learning about stuff.