In April, at the height of the pandemic in New York City, Central Park asked me to write an essay about what the park means to me as part of their #MyCentralPark Instagram campaign. This week, they selected a quote from my essay and printed it on a banner that now hangs in Central Park on the path that runs along the north side of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 84th Street just off Fifth Avenue. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to have my words displayed in my favorite place in the world. Here’s the full essay that includes this quote:
I live half a block from Central Park. I go there every day with my tiny dog. I go when I’m depleted and emerge restored. I go when I’m happy and emerge with even more joy.
The park holds our smiles and tears, our hopes and fears. It breathes with us and for us. Over these past weeks it’s my breath that I’m most grateful for. It’s my breath and the park that I return to as I look for some bits of peace in this quiet war.
The park is my classroom and my confidant. Now it’s also my theater and my concert hall. My laboratory and my living, thriving museum. It’s where science and art and society intertwine so fully that it’s impossible to separate them.
The park makes room. It makes room for everyone, for all forms of life — people, plants, animals, fungi, and microbes. All playing their part, all contributing to something greater than themselves.
There is work happening in the park, the most profound work that can be done. Life turns over there. It’s constantly and steadily renewed, and so are we in its presence. It’s a reminder of the cycle of nature mirrored in the cycle of our own lives. None of it lasts forever, but all of it serves its purpose in its time.
The park is always there, in every season, at every time of day. Steady and at ease — two things we need so desperately now in these unsteady times of tremendous difficulty.
When I think back on this time, I’ll always remember that when everything else fell away, Central Park remained. It waited for us, ready to welcome us as its beloved guests to tread lightly on its hallowed ground, whenever we arrived, providing whatever we needed in a time when we needed so much. That is something I’ll never forget, something I’ll never take for granted — the generosity of that park and everyone who works so hard to keep it open for all of us.