I visited the New York Botanical Garden on a random Wednesday during a light rain. In just a few short hours walking the expansive grounds, I felt transported out of New York City and into a peaceful, beautiful wonderland. This year, Yayoi Kusama has graced the gardens with her outdoor sculptures that added a flair of whimsy to a lush backdrop.
The botanical garden is a full sensory experience. The subtle, sweet scent of flowers evolved as I walked from garden to garden. Entering the Thain Family Forest is where I felt as if I were far away from the city. The fresh smell of damp earth and the light pitter patter of rain on the canopy above was calming and healing for my soul. Nature said, quietly, there is no rush. My gait kept apace with the steady rain.
Emerging from the forest, I happened upon the lilac garden, with dozens of varieties I've never seen before. The sweet aroma of lilacs was so intense I could smell it through my face mask, yet nature has a way of ensuring balance: something humans strive for, but often escapes us in our quest for more. The lilacs' aroma were delicately pervasive, instead of cloying like a cheap perfume.
I was stuck in a trance watching the raindrops hug the petals of the Japanese tree peony.
Nearby, the Japanese maple trees look meticulously maintained with long branches that grace the floor. Playfulness is in the air thanks to Kusama. These Japanese maples seem like little grass monsters, ready to scurry into the forest any minute now.
The magic of New York Botanical Garden is that it inspires and gives everyone permission to play. It invites curiosity with its vast, comprehensive collections of plants and flowers. And then, Kusama’s sculptures push people out of their comfort zone by being bold, larger-than-life creations of wild imagination.
I couldn’t help but marvel at the size and form of these sculptures. What did it take to dream these up and create them out of thin air? In standing under the Dancing Pumpkin, a dynamic interpretation of a pumpkin with octopus-like arms, it's hard not to be jolted out of conventional ways of thinking.
New York Botanical Garden is one of those places you can visit again and again. You'll find comfort in the familiarity and delight in the new. The grounds are always there, but depending upon the year and season, there are new plants, new flowers blooming, something new to learn, and new art to marvel at. This year alone, there were cherry blossoms in March and April, lilacs in May, roses in the summer and Yayoi Kusama's sculptures all throughout spring into fall.
NYBG delightfully breaks the home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term, "the third place" and says, "The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people's more serious involvement in other spheres. Most needed are those 'third places' which lend a public balance to the increased privatization of home life.” NYBG is the quintessential third place.
The Third Space Rating
Total rating: 28/30