Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I love cities- to visit that is. I was born in a fairly large one, and spent a good portion of my life in them. When my mother first dragged me to a rural area at age 10, I don't know if the thought of a mall that was only one story tall or the sound of crickets in the night were more frightening to me. In any case, I was not impressed with small town life at the time.
Still, I love to visit the city, and since I love to travel with my kids, they get regular doses of city life to balance out their home life in the woods. Our rural lifestyle does seem to make us a tad more sensitive to things like crowds, noise and pollution that city dwellers just accept as a normal part of life. Up close encounters with countless people and dozens of languages, hundreds of cars and buses, horns, shouts, lights and smog are all exciting and fun, but too much of it makes me feel like I've had way too much coffee. I can tell the kids get overstimulated too because we all act spastic and cranky after a couple of days of it.
So, one of the things I am always super grateful for when we spend any amount of time in a big city is finding the little refuges where nature has a little bit of space to do her thing, and so do we. Thank goodness people in the past had the foresight to set aside some land for parks before the sprawl of civilization took it all over. I do appreciate the tiny neighborhood parks, but when in a city the size of San Francisco, it's wonderful to have a huge open space like Golden Gate Park to spread your wings.
And I do mean huge- you could wander away and get lost for days in this park. Its' 1017 acres of public grounds are home to gardens, museums, playgrounds, squirrels, birds and probably quite a few people. I read that it was inspired by New Yorks' Central Park, but Golden Gate Park is 20% larger. Apparently, back in the 1860's, some San Franciscans began to feel the need for recreational space in their crowded city. I can't imagine they could even comprehend how much more crowded the city has become, and how much more valuable that recreational space is to both people and animals.
How amazing is it to be in the midst of a million or so people and find a place to do a cartwheel on a lawn or a tree to climb? While I can be fairly certain my own kids won't be suffering from nature deficit disorder, I wonder in hindsight if I didn't have it myself as a city kid. I don't actually remember visiting parks as a kid, but I sure appreciate visiting them now. I imagine there are countless other city kids who would probably never see a flower or a duck up close if it weren't for urban parks.
There are also the many, many things that are no-nos in places with high populations, and the signs to inform everyone. One very long sign featured 9 things you aren't allowed to do, but I couldn't get them all in one picture. We weren't planning on squirrel feeding, or flower stomping, but were a little disappointed that roller skating and dogs weren't allowed. Thankfully, in the large park, there are other areas where both dogs and wheels are allowed. We didn't see any "No Tree Climbing" signs, so my kids did climb a few lovely old trees, and Boy Child attempted to climb the concrete base of a windmill. We learned that over 155,000 trees were planted in the first 20 years of Golden Gate Park- again yippee for foresight because they are like an oasis in a concrete desert. A few hours replenishing our souls in nature and we were ready to tackle more city adventures.
I'd love to hear about the best urban parks in other areas around the country. It feeds our dream of seeing all 50 states before the kids are grown, and gives us ideas of where to stop when we do go. So, what are your favorite places to find trees in the city?