Taking a walk in New York’s Central Park was on my bucket list. Having never visited New York I’m not sure where the urge came from. Maybe it was a childhood spent watching Kojak and Cagney and Lacey, or the magical scenes of the park portrayed in Elf and Home Alone 2. Whatever the reason, a recent trip to New York provided me with the ideal opportunity.
My first visit to Central Park came on a hot summer’s morning. The walk from the hotel, on Upper East Side, caused the humid air to stick to my face. Skyscrapers shadowed traffic jams. Yellow New York taxis fought against a wall of sirens and car horns. Carbon Monoxide hung in my nostrils.
Walking through the entrance, the first view of the park is understated. Iron railings stand in front of small bushes and trees where street artists ply their trade. I could have been in any park in London. As you walk along there is a point when something mystical happens, a point where you are transported into another world.
The bustle of New York City becomes background noise, replaced by the shrill of Parakeets and the cries of Howler Monkeys. Elm trees are everywhere, scented with the fresh pollen of Sage and Asters. The air becomes cooler and breathing easier.
Continuing on through the park, there is a contrast of frenzy and calm. Teams of professional cyclists’ race through woodland. Lycra clad runners compete with skateboarders and rollerbladers. Couples stroll hand in hand, others engrossed in their books and headphones. Elderly ladies push clothed Shih Tzus around in pushchairs.
At one point in the walk I noticed a man sat alone on a park bench. Next to him was a large wooden box, decorated with drawings of flowers and the words “The Power of Now” written in large black letters. The Power of Now is a renowned book by Eckhart Tolle and one of my favourite books. In essence the book talks about how “now” is the only moment in which we can do or influence anything. The past has gone and the future is not yet upon us. Being present and alive in the “now” is the only true way we can live our lives.
I sat next to the man and we talked about the book. He told me he had read it a number of years ago. The impact of it was so dramatic that he had given up his job in South America, sold his house and possessions and moved to New York. Every day he came to Central Park to read, to write, to observe, to live in the moment and experience the energy that the park provided for him. He had sold all his material possessions and found his now in Central Park. I understood what he meant, not at that moment, but with each visit to the park I made over the next four days.
In those visits I experienced the stillness of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields, and I even got to dance to a rock band practicing in the park at 7am in the morning.
There is an energy about Central Park that I have yet to experience anywhere else. It’s a place where madness meets calm and I now know why it was on my bucket list. As the Power of Now man told me “once it gets a hold of you it never lets you go.”
I still wonder whether he was real.