By Isa Covo
…the days grow short when you reach
…and the leaves turn to gold…
Those words are from a beautiful song, with music by Kurt Weil and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson; it is a little sad too, as it focuses on aging. Time seems to be galloping after a certain age, even though some days feel endless.
Yes, yes, dears, September is here. I hope you all had vacations, (and pleasant ones) not spoiled by the air carriers, the lost reservations, and the weather.
Did you know that September is the seventh month and that the months following it until the end of the year are just as inaccurately denominated? Well perhaps you do, but I’ll explain anyway: it is because the year originally began in March, and when “they” decided to change it to January, they did not bother to change the rest. Start counting and you’ll see.
It has been hot—very hot—in New York, but not as bad as in Europe. One day I learned that the temperatures in Paris were hotter than those in Phoenix, and closer to those of the Emirates.
September can be a great month, with welcome cooler temperatures, some nice bright days, and the start of the striking changing colors of the trees. From my windows I can see a lot of trees, along the streets, in the backyards, and in some of the small parks dotting the Village. September is the time that I leave my kitchen and take a tour of some of those parks. You all know Washington Square of course, and the AIDS Memorial, as well as Christopher Park with its famous statues, including that of General Sheridan, le beau sabreur, but there are at least fifteen more and it is possible that I have missed some.
Jefferson Market Garden:
Located at 14 Greenwich Avenue, it is, to my mind, the most beautiful garden in the Village. It is built on the site of the Jefferson Market, which was razed in 1873 to make way for the Gothic structure that was a courthouse, now the Jefferson Market Library. The garden is on the site of the former Women’s House of Detention (1932-1971). When the prison was demolished in 1974 the land was transferred to the New York City Department of Parks which in turn entrusted it to the Jefferson Market Garden Committee, Inc., a neighborhood group that helped create the garden and continues to raise funds and care for it. It is a quiet place that seems remote from the two busy avenues that front it. It is never mobbed, and visitors can walk leisurely on its pathways, rest, or read on its well-placed benches.
Sheridan Square Viewing Garden:
When going to the Christopher Street subway station, the nearby bank, or Gristedes, you pass by this charming little slice of nature built on a triangle bound by West 4th Street, Washington Place, and Barrow Street. Originally this triangle was a concrete traffic safety island; but in 1981 a group of Villagers created the Sheridan Square Triangle Association, and with the help of various city agencies they received assistance and an initial grant. In 1982 the triangle was landscaped and planted, and in 1989 it became part of the Department of Parks and Recreation—thus ensuring its continuation as a garden. It is lovingly cared for by a devoted group of volunteers who offer viewers a charming piece of nature.
Golden Swan Garden:
Located on 6th Avenue and West 4th Street, it is a small garden, not as well-tended as some of the other gardens in the vicinity. But the site has a fascinating and colorful history. A tavern called the Golden Swan Café (also known as Hell Hole by its patrons) once existed there and was frequented by various characters, artists, writers, actors and even the homeless. Eugene O’Neal, a frequent patron, found inspiration for his play The Iceman Cometh from the setting and characters at the Golden Swan. On Google there are a number of links to articles that have information and pictures relating to this notorious dive and the goings-on in the southern Village.
Secret Garden at Saint Luke in the Fields:
Tucked in a small corner in the West Village, this delightful little garden on Hudson and Barrow Streets gives the impression that a piece of the countryside was once in the area. It is meticulously cared for and the trees and flowers planted there were especially chosen to attract birds and butterflies, which they do. I never saw so many birds in such a small space. The public is welcome and I saw small groups gathered on the benches set around the garden; but the plants are arranged in such a way that the benches remain out of sight unless you come almost upon them. If you need some rest from the buzz of the city, this is the place to find it.
Pier 46 Hudson River Greenway:
If you walk towards the Hudson River Park on a hot day, you will gradually experience a different climate; there are soft breezes, the temperature falls, there are trees, and artificial turf creates a park-like atmosphere—and people take advantage of it, although it is not very crowded. Some do yoga, some have picnics, some just lie in the sun. Runners use the asphalt paths. It is a pleasant place with expanded views of New Jersey across the river. Nevertheless, I did not find it restful.