By Sarah West
One Approach Road and Central Park West, both of these, with benevolent spirit caress. Throughout my early career, the first of these became my lifelong companion. I often return and trace the Approach Road. Around each bend, I discover greater depths that I need to continually reach beyond mere existence. I walk with him, the grand architect; his cascading paths and canopies are framework of divine design transcend both the lifetimes of he and I.
This sacred affair between parkway lands, wilderness and the artist, is a story told for the ages. It is relived time and again. The work of Olmsted and Vaux is a living American epic providing sanctuary, solace and places for all to run.
On a Friday October morn, I stood near The Artist’s Gate to plot my course. Earlier, I’d taken an extended promenade along the park via 5th Avenue with a longing to explore more. Through the gate around noon, I did embark. Passing the boulders and then the carousel, later Balto (the sculpture of the legendary sled dog) and then, Literary Promenade. The Bethesda Fountain, the Rink, Tavern on the Green and Strawberry Fields. Amid all of this, I regressed from the crowds to observe this park as it lives.
Central Park, certainly considered one of Olmsted and Vaux’s crown jewels, truly is a marvel belonging to everyone. The sacred space is far more than just a recreational place. To homeless, it’s home, to the business executive, a lunchtime escape, to the director a stage and to the artist, a haven of dreams suspended within its natural energy. She is an icon to conservancy, and an integral organ which quietly keeps time with the city’s heartbeat.
Her fountains and bridges are pendants. Her walking paths are the arteries through which people find renewed ways to breathe. Her open spaces host marches, leisure picnics and passionate protests. She is a canvas upon which convictions, artistry and escape are exhibited.
Along the river banks, o’er the watersheds and amid the forests and meadowlands, the work of men like Olmsted, Vaux, Pinchot, Schenck and Bartram are forever visible.
Follow the path to Strawberry Fields. Imagine your footsteps mirror the many great men who took this promenade before you. In memoriam, draw from them the lessons that made their lives and work exemplary. Ever more when visiting the parks, whether Central, Prospect, Druid or beyond, gather there the energy which propels you farther on.
May we walk each day among the trees that we aspire to be.
Sarah West serves the Opelika Observer as a contributing columnist, with written works of Cultural Arts relevance and prose. She is a preservation and conservation advocate, activist and visual artist of American Illustration with a focus on regional narrative painting. She is the founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, a center for cultural arts, Smiths Station’s premier fine-arts destination. She is the appointed official artist to the city of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist and the director of her art center’s Cultural Arts Outreach Initiative. To learn more about her work and activism, visit www.thesarahwestgalleryoffineart.com.