The Viele Map

Created by Egbert L. Viele in 1865, the Sanitary and Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York (aka the Viele map), shows the pre-grid, natural state of the island, including some 500 hills, 88 miles of streams, 21 ponds and 300 springs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inwood Park & Robert Frost

The Tuft of Flowers, by Robert Frost, came to life today at the start of a 90 minute walk on a desolate cold day through Inwood Park.  I’ll take you just that far, we’ll save the rest for another day…

Looking south to the George Washington Bridge, near the Dyckman Street entrance and the lower level of the park…
My walk already started out special.  I passed this, what appears to be a devotion, along the banks of the Hudson.  IMG_0794 IMG_0792
Not so unusual, actually.  Inwood is a special community.

I’ve posted this view before, but not from this perspective, at sea level, the fjords (palisades) across the Hudson.
Looking north towards the Tappan Zee, up the Hudson…
Just a little bit further to the right of the above image, a bridge for Amtrak and the entrance of the short Harlem River…

Here’s the bridge that takes you over RR tracks, deeper into the park. This is the first time I crossed the bridge because I’d always been on skates before...

I didn’t wait here more than a minute…
when a train came by…
Inwood Park is the closest you get to an expanse of “woods” in Manhattan,  and considering what most perceptions are of Manhattan, it’s pretty incredible…
As soon as you cross the tracks, “street” lamps from a by-gone age mark the path…
Can you see both lamp posts in the woods?
I will leave off with this.  The tunnel ahead leads the traveler under the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway.  This is where I encountered something that I realized, later when I looked closely at the pictures, was Robert Frost’s The Tuft of Flowers.  I mean that explicitly; considering the country:city thing, this is not even a metaphor, but exactly and really what Robert Frost experienced that caused him to express the beautiful sentiment in that wonderful poem (which is included at the end).  Follow closely…
Here is the tunnel as you approach…
Notice the tunnel has been painted midway up, first a peach color, and another coat of white paint came later…
The view through the tunnel…
But down to the left upon entering the tunnel, in the dirt, started by someone, at some time, a mosaic of flowers.

The flower mosaic was installed between the two coats of paint. Look how the painter who came later was careful to avoid getting paint on it…
It’s literally this poem. Two workers met without meeting.  The latter appreciated what the former had done, and in so doing, came to see the world a bit differently… 

A Tuft of Flowers, by Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone,

`As all must be,' I said within my heart,
`Whether they work together or apart.'

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a 'wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

`Men work together,' I told him from the heart,
`Whether they work together or apart.'


  1. Thank you for the revisit to Inwood park and the train tracks. I have 3 tiles like the ones pasted to the paint. Thanks for the poem, too. I'm 'wildered by your keen eye.

  2. and, furthermore, the view of my old apt in the dyckman swing bridge pic. i think the fruits are for the dead, possibly someone killed there. I used to come across the same on Palisade Ave. usually a cake and some coins as well.

  3. Thanks Susan--that makes sense. Rob

  4. Thanks, Rob. This blog is terrific. I've walked on the other side of the river, under the "fjords", and appreciate seeing them from the NY perspective. Inwood Park is amazing. Looking forward to reading more.