St. Nicholas Park in Harlem is one of few spots on the island of Manhattan where you can stand on terraces of rock untouched since men with surveyor's tools stood on them to deliver the bad news, back in the last century but one: Gentlemen, here is a substance we cannot move. So they built around, below and above, leaving this uneven pleat of ground, rocks surfaced between the trees like whales in strips of sun, stunned to find themselves landlocked among buildings, illuminated at night by lamp posts. The old maples and oaks, roots plumbing the hill as humans could not, whisper of what's below: more rock—more rock—more rock.
Anne Pierson Wiese
Profile of the Night Heron
In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden the night heron is on his branch of his tree, blue moon curve of his body riding low above the pond, leaves dipping into water beneath him, green and loose as fingers. On the far shore, the ibis is where I left him last time, a black cypher on his rock. These birds, they go to the right place every day until they die. There are people like that in the city, with signature hats or empty attaché cases, expressions of private absorption fending off comment, who attach to physical locations—a storefront, a stoop, a corner, a bench—and appear there daily as if for a job. They negotiate themselves into the pattern of place, perhaps wiping windows, badly, for a few bucks, clearing the stoop of take-out menus every morning, collecting the trash at the base of the walk/don’t walk sign and depositing it in the garbage can. Even when surfaces change, when the Mom & Pop store becomes a coffee bar, when the park benches are replaced with dainty chairs and a pebble border, they stay, noticing what will never change: the heartprick of longitude and latitude to home in on, the conviction that life depends, every day, on what outlasts you.