Blooming in NYC: Inwood

As promised in my last post, I want to continue the “bloom where you’re planted” theme in my writing by sharing the various things I find in my city when I seek out all it has to offer. If you’re not from NYC, maybe you’ll get some tips on what to visit when you’re here (or at least let you know what else exists here, aside from Times Square and other various tourist hellscapes…) If you’re from NYC or the nearby area, maybe you’ve seen what I’m describing and can chime in, or haven’t visited it yet and might want to check it out!

After spending my “Black Friday” outdoors in nature, far from the maddening crowd, my husband and I decided to travel even further uptown Saturday morning – originally planning to visit Fort Tryon Park, after breakfast at Rue La Rue Cafe. Sadly, Rue la Rue is closed (hopefully temporarily), but we opted for something that ended up being a fantastic adventure: Inwood!

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Muscota Marsh in Inwood Hill Park. Henry Hudson Bridge crosses Spuyten Duyvil Creek.

For those that don’t know, Inwood is the upper most neighborhood uptown, on the island of Manhattan (Oddly enough, the Bronx-situated neighborhood of Marble Hill is still considered part of the Manhattan borough). Inwood is, essentially, everything north of Fort Tryon Park.

What’s so “In” about Inwood?

Home to incredible restaurants and bars, such as The Park ViewLa Marina, Darling Coffee, Tryon Public House, Guadalupe’s, a 233-year-old Farmhouse-turned-museum, and more, Inwood is also home to quite possibly the most untouched natural landscape that Manhattan has to offer.

According to the NYC parks website,

Evidence of its prehistoric roots exists as dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers. Evidence of its uninhabited state afterward remains as its forest and salt marsh (the last natural one in Manhattan), and evidence of its use by Native Americans in the 17th century continues to be discovered. Much has occurred on the land that now composes Inwood Hill Park since the arrival of European colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries, but luckily, most of the park was largely untouched by the wars and development that took place.

Inwood’s parks are the real deal. This is “old New York” at its oldest, and I’m excited to share a bit more about my interactions with Inwood Hill Park, as well as the morning I spent there this weekend.

Story Time!

Back in March of 2014, before we moved to NYC, we took a trip up here partly to scope out potential neighborhoods for our imminent move that fall, but partly for me to do research on a play I was directed in Oklahoma City, for a Native American Play Festival.

The play is titled Manahatta, written by Oklahoma-born, NYC-resident Choctaw playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle (it was being simultaneously workshopped at The Public Theater in NYC, and is now being performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of its 2018 season). It tells parallel stories of the Lenni-Lenape people who originally lived in Manhattan (“Manahatta” is a Lenape word, meaning “island of many hills”) and were tricked into “selling” the land to the Dutch, and of a 20th century Native Delaware woman trying to reconcile her life in New York City, working on Wall Street, with the native roots of her ancestry, displaced to Oklahoma where her immediate family still lives. It was well received!

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OKC Theatre Company’s Manahatta starred Maya Torralba, Zack Morris, and Rachel Morgan. Artwork by Rachel Morgan.

I spent a lot of time in Inwood that March, discovering not only the “Indian Caves” where the Lenape people would camp while they spent their summers fishing in the nearby bodies of water (and are still in use today as shelter for the displaced), but the “Shorakkopoch Rock,” where, according to some legends, the actual transaction between the Dutch and the Native tribes took place.

The “Indian Caves” of Inwood Hill Park

Inwood - Shorakkopoch RockShorakkopoch Rock, where some say the infamous “sale” of Manahatta/Manhattan took place.

My husband and I host a walk from Inwood to Battery Park every fourth of July, in part to honor the history of the island, its original inhabitants, and its sordid relationship with the past and founding of our country. We have always begun our walk at this rock, even if it might not be the actual site of this legendary transaction.

Fast Forward to This Weekend…

In my last post, I had mentioned the “North Woods” of Central Park as a place that can very often be a true escape from the sights and the sounds of the city… but nowhere on the island of Manhattan is there a greater escape than Inwood Hill Park, where you’re not only escaping sights and sounds of the city, but much of the past millenium. The park is where you’ll even find Manhattan’s last surviving salt-water marsh (apparently there were once quite a few on the island), revitalized thanks to Columbia University, which has a boat house just next door.

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Muscota Marsh today.

Our day on Saturday began here, near this very salt water marsh, having a weekend brunch at the Indian Road Cafe, which we had first discovered this past summer during the Drums Along the Hudson, a Native American and Multicultural Festival.

Indian Road Cafe describes itself as “a restaurant in constant motion,” changing menus seasonally, and providing local artists and musicians the chance to display (or perform) some of their work on a weekly basis. Their menu also features local goods – they try to source as close to home as possible,

using a large group of Hudson Valley farms and producers. We also have relationships with purveyors on the Arthur Avenue (some call it the real Little Italy) in the Bronx, and source a great deal of fresh pasta, cheese, and meats a short ride away on the 12 bus. (from their website)

Saturday brunch included bottomless mimosas (I’ve said before that moderation is key, so only attend bottomless brunches in moderation), fresh fruit – as locally sourced as possible – and eggs from nearby Feather Ridge Farms. Oh, and some delicious French Toast. All in all, it was a wonderful meal in a wonderful place.

Outside the restaurant, there was even a “leave a book, take a book” stand. They clearly knew all the right buttons to push to provide us with the best start to a Saturday morning stay-cation experience in NYC.

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Of course, being that far north in Inwood, we couldn’t help but take advantage that afternoon and walk across the Broadway Bridge to the Marble Hill Target… but that’s a boring story that doesn’t need to be told here (except that I lost my great-uncle’s vintage sweater while I was there, alas!)

All in all, another wonderful chance to bloom here in NYC!

Have you been to Inwood Hill Park? Or, what’s your favorite part of Inwood?

If you’re not from these here parts, definitely consider visiting there when you do – and let me know, and I’ll tag along! And let me know where else I should visit that you might know, in your own city or state!

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

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I can tell you exactly where I was, and what I was doing when someone first told me to “bloom where you’re planted.” I was 23 years old, and sitting on some concrete steps leading down into the Myriad Botanical Gardens of Oklahoma City – I went to college and grad school in Oklahoma, before we moved to NYC.

I was on the phone with a guy I was interested in – the man who would be my first gay relationship after coming out – and he was talking to me as he walked home from a piano lesson in the small town in which he grew up, telling me what he saw and with whom he met, on the way. While he talked, I watched a small bird – most likely a wren – jump around on the steps in front of me. I lamented to him that my life in Oklahoma City couldn’t possibly be as interesting as his was, in his small town.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. “No sense being down about it. You are where you are, so make the most of it. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful or interesting things happening. Bloom where you’re planted!”

I’d never heard this phrase before – but hearing it was one of the first of many events that would completely change my life and my outlook on the world around me.

What does it mean to bloom where you’re planted?

While the actual origin of the phrase is shrouded in mystery (rather, it’s just not clear where it truly came from), most people seem to understand it to be a figurative phrase. We’re not literally planting people (ever see that horror classic Motel Hell? They planted people. This is not advisable.)

We’re “planted,” metaphorically speaking, where we live – where we’re stationed, where our job is, or even where we are physically or mentally. If we’re to bloom where we’re planted, we have to dig deep with our roots, find what there is to find wherever we are, and use it to bring us into our best selves.

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A lotus blooms at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

The lotus is a brilliant representation of this metaphor, because it literally germinates and grows in the mud into one of the most beautiful and highly symbolic flowers in the world! We can bloom wherever we’re planted… even if it’s in the mud!

How I bloom where I’m planted:

My husband and I love to have miniature “stay-cations” in the city on days we have off together. We live in New York City, for crying out loud! There’s always so much to see and do, even without money!

This past weekend was Thanksgiving Day weekend, including Black Friday. Instead of bowing to the gods of consumerism (or taking advantage of amazing deals – however you want to look at it), we decided to take a walk.

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The North Woods, at Central Park

Beginning at our home in Harlem, we walked to Central Park, grabbing coffee from a favorite local coffee shop along the way. The North Woods are one of only a handful of fully forested areas in Central Park. In the summer, when the leaves are fully on the trees, all of the sights of the city are blocked out, and even most of the sound! The rustling of the wind through the crisp autumn leaves was an invigorating break from the rest of the world, fighting over its television sets, Macbooks, and designer clothing (no offense, of course, if that was you). The escape of the park, especially the North Woods, is an adventure each and every time we visit, a bloom of its own on the stalk of our life in the city!

So, we walked over 100 blocks on Black Friday. Not as many as we walk on July 4th, when we walk the length of the island (an odd but oddly fulfilling tradition of ours), but it was a wonderful escape. We found ourselves walking across the West Side and up Riverside Park on the way home, chatting about our life in the city and the direction we’re hoping for it to go. Really digging in to what roots us, and trying to find the ways in which we can blossom to our fullest.

Blooming where you’re planted means finding ways in which you can dig in and grow to your fullest potential, and it means… get out and explore!!!!!!!

Did you know Riverside Church, located at Riverside Drive and W. 122nd, boasts the tallest U.S. church structure (392 feet), and holds the world’s largest turned bell (20 tons)?

20171124_135402Did you know that Grant’s Tomb, the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, located next to Riverside Church, is the largest mausoleum in North America?

How do you bloom where you’re planted? What have you explored lately, or what exciting things have you discovered in your own backyard? I’d love to hear about your own adventures!