New York City, 4 am. There is a jackhammer outside my window in this vibrant, exciting, pulsating city of New York. But, it’s 4:26 am -- can’t this city please stop and sleep --just a little bit? Just so the rest of us can get some needed rest ? I guess the answer is no.
In my home, just North of San Antonio, on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, the only sound outside my house at this time in the morning would be the whispering in the trees, or the subtle movements of deer that share the habitat of our neighborhood.
Not jack hammering.
I love this little hotel. It’s a serene little oasis that feels like our own apartment that my husband and I share on midtown’s east side. I’m looking forward for a walk in the morning, toward the river, the leafier neighborhoods of pretty brownstones and the Japanese center. Maybe there will be a garden there. Maybe the jackhammering will have stopped.
Now I hear the trash truck, gathering the clinking and banging mounds of trash bags I observed earlier in the day. In this neighborhood near Lexington and 50th, it must be trash day on Friday.
I often marvel, in my quiet space in our home on one-half acre covered with at least 30 trees, that the human impact as seen in our massive development of formerly pristine nature, rarely results in beauty.
We humans need nature, trees, sunshine, rain and the gifts they give us. Yet, we rarely recognize how powerful, necessary, and beautiful the water/rain cycle is. It's the natural process, the natural world that gives us not only clean air to breathe, but habitat for birds and all the wildlife we care about. And this gives us joy.
Now, the trash truck is gone, and it is quieter. Except for the jack hammering.
At home, on mornings about four days a week, the lovely hills that give us our views, and proximity to the hill country, are there because the land is preserved from development by an army base. So, the quiet I am missing here in NewYork in the wee hours of the morning, is interrupted there by the sound of young troops learning to shoot the enemy: the rat-a-tat-tat of guns firing as they practice. As much as I dislike it, I can close the door, and venture to the other side of the house, and seek serenity in my office/yoga room, till that hour is over.
When I can, I hop in my car, and drive the 15-20 minutes to the beautiful Guadalupe State Park where beauty, quiet and serenity are assured for me and my dog who loves it so. Her nose always knows - this is a different trip to THAT place with all the great smells and the river.
I am drawn to areas of beauty, even here in NYC. The spot of color in the fall flowers planted at Rockefeller center. The street with more trees, and flower shops, cafes, and sculptures surrounded by green.
As a volunteer for my local botanical garden, I have learned that the simple connection between trees, plants and flowers and their interaction with a finite amount of water (if enclosed, as a terrarium is, as our planet is) gives us the wonderful cycle that keeps us breathing. First the water in the air surrounding the plants is absorbed into their leaves. (absorption) Next the sunlight and the air combine in the magic of photosynthesis and result in the giving off of water particles and oxygen. (transpiration) Then the air particles cluster in the atmosphere and eventually create rain. (condensation) Finally, when the droplets rain down for the plants to absorb, the beautiful cycle starts all over again.
In addition to life-giving oxygen, the plants clean our polluted air with their process. Trees and plants also give us food, and some provide us the basis for our homes, our furniture, our art. Still others absorb sound, and provide a barrier to discordant sound: like the jack hammers that continue outside my window. If only there were trees outside my window to absorb that sound.
The jackhammering is important I suppose, and in an hour or so, will be joined by a cacophony of other sounds of this “city that never sleeps.” Delivery and supply trucks replenish the shops and hotels, cafes and delis, small markets and grocery stores that feed us.
But what about the nature, the trees and flowers that feed our souls?
Rachel Carson, born in a smaller community that gave her the love an appreciation of the Natural World, wrote about such things, this human need for the gifts of a vibrant community of woods and habitat for birds and other wildlife. Carson herself was a gift, a singular woman who started the modern environmental movement, when she noticed the eerie silence, that death of song birds in her book "Silent Spring."
She died in Silver Spring, MD, now home to the Discovery Channel, surrounded by the city, but a city with a little more integration of trees and plants than NYC. The area has more green space and parks that provide habitats. It’s ironic then, that the Discovery Channel, who has brought us the breathtaking “Plant Earth” series, now seeks the successful sequel to shows about logging, and the exciting danger viewers love to see in the deforestation of our planet in "Ax Men."
It’s 5:15 am now. The jack hammering has stopped. So, maybe even for a moment, it is quiet, save the one or two cars that pass by. I can finally rest.
Tomorrow I want to venture out, after a hectic week of work in this city, to enjoy Central Park, but I am told to avoid it. The NYC marathon is here, and their will be throngs of people setting up for the Sunday run, no serenity to be found, I fear. And yet, I know November 2nd, on this anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, groups like ReTreet America (www.retreet.org) will be repairing what has been torn apart by the natural world, with the planting of our friendly, life giving, food and shelter providing, air cleansing trees.
Yes, trees are the answer. To all of the questions.