Central Park Lake in Summer: The Marriage of Manhattan and Nature

Bow Bridge, Central Park, New York
Credit: Maddy Streets

There’s the sound of oars frantically slapping water, then excited squeals of anticipation and finally the thud of wood hitting wood. Amidst the tranquility of the clear waters of Central Park Lake, two over-enthusiastic rowboats have collided.

Perhaps one of the most universally appealing locations in all of Manhattan, the lake and its surrounding lawns are packed on this Labor Day afternoon. The stifling heat has rendered all but the most valiant of birds silent; but New Yorkers are more resilient. In their hordes they seek out the water, the vast expanse a soothing oasis in the middle of metropolis. Families, gaggles of girlfriends, solo travelers and wistful couples all find themselves slowing at the sight of the water and, most majestically, Bow Bridge.

Finished in 1862 and recently refurbished, the Bridge – also nicknamed Proposal Bridge – is low-lying and simple, the swirls on its sides reminiscent of ice cream. Adorned by four large urns spilling over with luscious red flowers, it exudes romance. As it glows in the sunlight, many observers are only able to snap a few photos before scampering back into the shade, defeated by the heat.

The brave include a besotted couple who stop a stranger for a photo and pose for numerous shots before they are satisfied. His arm around her waist, her looking up into his eyes – it’s the very image of an engagement announcement. When their photographer asks if he has indeed popped the question, there is only laughter and a reddening of his cheeks in response.

Back on the water, a child points and giggles at the crash from the safety of her own boat. The vivid blue life preserver wrapped around her explains her confidence – or perhaps it comes from the reassuring figure of her father who mans the oars, sweat blooming across his T-shirt as he skillfully rows the boat around the carnage and into the lagoon. There is no splashing here, just the silence of the wood cutting through water.

Overhead, a helicopter dips and hovers lazily, a manmade dragonfly.

Two women take up a spot on a bench lining the path, their attention focused on two dripping popsicles rather than the bridge before them. Finally looking up, the blonde’s lips quirk upwards and she turns to her friend, the gleam of gossip clear in her eyes.

“Did you know Harry was going to propose to Kate here, in one of those boats?”

Immediately the brunette’s interest is peaked. A drop of melted orange ice splatters unobserved on the sidewalk.

“Yes, he had the ring and everything. Apparently it was too difficult getting the box out of his pocket while also rowing the boat.” A giggle escapes and the two women begin laughing loudly, for once drawing the attention away from the collision on the lake. Noticing their audience, they fall silent once more. The air is disturbed only by the soothing rhythm of sandals slapping on concrete.

After several attempts, the converged boats at last are separated, triumphant shouts ringing out. As they finally continue on their way, a young woman snaps a photo of a cluster of reeds. On closer inspection, the stern of a boat can be seen. Shrouded by the stalks, oblivious to the accident only feet away, a couple lies in repose. A ring sparkles on her left hand.

Written 09/09/15 for NYU assignment.





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