An Earthly Delight
By Robert Beck
The garden section of Verdi Square (Broadway, Amsterdam and W. 73) is a refuge from the snarl and claw of the city. A place to sit and let your mind relax in a buffered environment. Take a seat, just for a minute, or more if you have more, and breathe. Doesn’t that feel good?
There is lots to look at while the stress evaporates. My favorite detail is the edging where the gravel path meets the foliage. The metal rim is slowly being replaced by thin branches, just a few inches long, stuck end-up, side-by-side, into the dirt. A mini sea wall, with tiny pilings of varying thickness and uneven length, religiously assembled in common spirit. More than adaptive reuse—it’s what belongs there.
Every gardener has their reason. For Chizo, it’s a profound appreciation of harmony. At one time, she was a painter; now she finds her artistic hand in the garden. She prunes, she rakes gravel, and she cuts the sticks for the edging, positioning them in the ground one at a time with a sculptural knack and balanced eye. “The beauty emerges everywhere in space,” she says. She’s not the only one who feels that way.
Chizo is one of an intrepid group of volunteer gardeners who do the work of keeping the Verdi Square garden in order. The park was spectacular when the new station opened twenty years ago, but it fell into disrepair. The Friends of Verdi Square assumed its rehabilitation. There is support from local residents and businesses, but the Friends have to raise money and put in the effort. There is a lot more to it than just picking up the trash, which there is plenty of. It’s a real garden. Amidst the foliage are 192 distinct types of plants to be considered and cared for.
There are great reasons to garden. Your body makes Vitamin D from sunlight, which is good for your bones and immune system, and reduces your risk of nasty diseases. Gardening also is a well-rounded exercise. It’s calming, mood-boosting, and fosters feelings of agency and connection. Want to matter and belong? Here it is. In short, it makes you healthier and happier and is cheaper than going to doctors and the gym.
Being in Nature is being in the moment. I love feeling it all around me: the plants, the trees, the dirt. I grew up in dirt. It feels much more like home to me than concrete and asphalt. The garden at Verdi Square is good for a reduction of 15 blood pressure points on the way to your next immediacy.
The friends of Verdi Square need a few more volunteers. If you remember how good dirt feels under your feet, want to help, and look good in green, visit the website or stop by Saturday mornings. Bring your own reasons.
Robert Beck’s West Side Canvas observes life on the Upper West Side. His studio is on 79th Street, and you can contact him at www.robertbeck.net
Read all of Robert Beck’s columns (formerly Weekend Column) here.