Last year this time, I was on my way to the exotic Galapagos Islands. During the week I spent on an Ecoventura cruise, I took daily excursions to different islands to see blue-footed boobies, albatrosses, iguanas, giant tortoises, and many more exotic species. I swam with sea lions and saw sea turtles, eagle rays, and sharks on a snorkeling outing. It was the ultimate dream come true for this nature lover. But how does one come back from a trip like that and settle back into life?
It wasn’t easy. If I could, I would live go live on one of the enchanted isles. But that’s not an option.
I had to learn to appreciate nature around me, where I live and work. The squirrels, pigeons, and rats of New York are hardly exotic. But when you open your eyes, beauty is everywhere, even in the most unlikely places. It could be a baby bird taking a bath in a puddle of rainwater in the park, or a squirrel relaxing on a platform bench after eating way too many nuts, or a gaggle of geese getting chased by a dog.
Sometimes when the day is just not going my way, my eyes are aching from looking at the computer screen for too long, and I am totally spent from working long hours, I take a walk in Battery Park in downtown Manhattan. I pass hordes of tourists trying to get to the Statue of Liberty, the vendors selling pretzels and hot dogs, the couples sitting down for sketch artists, and go directly to where the action is— the lawn where I can hang out with the wildlife.
In the half hour break I take, I watch the playful squirrels who are so used to humans they have no problem coming within inches. I smile when I see the pigeons making their way around the scurrying squirrels, and it’s especially a delight to see Zelda, the beautiful resident turkey who has been living in the park for more than seven years. I then make my way towards the Hudson where in the distance lies the mighty Statue of Liberty and sit on a bench and take a few deep breaths as butterflies flutter and bees buzz in the plants around me. And when I tune out the horns of tourist boats, the blasting music by street performers, and the calls of Liberty Lady impersonators, I can hear the songs of the seabirds.
It’s magical. It’s my New York City. It’s exotic in its own way.