Appreciating Nature, Even in New York City

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.

squirrellI 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.

zeldaIn 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.

Published by Lavanya

Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and globetrotter based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, Fodor’s, Forbes, USA Today and many more in a career spanning ten years. She covers travel, eco-lifestyle, culture, pets, and wildlife conservation.

2 thoughts on “Appreciating Nature, Even in New York City

  1. Hi Lavanya… I was with you last year in the Galapagos, and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip! I relate to what you are saying about taking joy in whatever wildlife is around me at home or wherever I go. Even though there is nothing here in Indiana as exotic as a blue-footed booby bird, there is a lot to explore in the natural world right outside my back door.

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