Butterflies in the Snow

Perhaps my Snow Belt roots drove me outside last Saturday when New York City was quilted by a few soft inches of fluffy snow. “Snow storm” is an understatement regardless of what the weather channel would have you believe. Less than three inches fell, but Mayor Bloomberg had the salt trucks ready. I hauled the family to the New York Botanical Gardens to enjoy the Manolo Valdes sculpture exhibit and see his giant metallic butterflies flutter in the snow. Our last trip to the Gardens was six months earlier to see Monet’s work during one of the hottest days of the year.

Now it was winter. And last Saturday was perfect. No one was around.

Fat flakes fell as we strolled through the park watching cardinals, admiring seven bronze and aluminum installation pieces by Valdes, throwing snowballs and trying not to hit famous works of art, and believing that we had New York City to ourselves that day.

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There aren’t many quiet places in New York City. Even shoebox apartments several stories above the din do not buffer you. I do recall the “Blizzard on Bleecker” in 1996 when New York was silent for about three straight days. I lived on Bleecker Street at the time; the World Trade Center towers still dominated downtown. I was new to New York and vividly remember how quiet the city was after that snow storm, and how individuals who ventured out into Greenwich Village, as I did, loved the silencing of all that snow. It would take days to dig out. People cross-country skied down LaGuardia Place or threw snowballs down the middle of Bleecker because no cab or delivery truck was going to run them over. There was tremendous freedom in the snow. Eventually the snow became dirty, the congestion returned, and the purity of those lovely few days was gone.

And that’s how last Saturday felt. For a few hours, my husband, daughter and I played in a snow globe, scampering about like butterflies. New York City is hectic, expensive, tiring, a terrorist target, full of crazy people doing bizarre things, and dizzying. But on that afternoon, for us, it was briefly a giant, quiet playground made for three.

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Snowball Fight NYBG December 2012

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