North America, Photo Essays
Comments 34

Could Dying Be Beautiful? Fall Colors in New York City.

Before I landed on a cold, rainy night in New York City last September, my mind was filled with images of the crowded flashy streets of Times Square, the Statue of Liberty raising its torch to welcome scores of tourists, and well, Hollywood-inspired conversations. Those pre-conceived notions surprisingly turned out to be true, but away from bustling midtown and “touristy” New York sights, I found a world I loved so much that I came back for seconds – the world of fall colors!

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On the upper west side of Manhattan, I found my haunt near Riverside park. At first, it was just somewhere to get away, hear birds chirping in the trees, admire old church spires reaching out to the sky. Somewhere to glimpse a fiery red sunset above the Hudson River and wave to the night lights of New Jersey across.

Then came fall, almost like a slow death, only more beautiful than any of my notions of dying. When we humans wither towards the end of our time on earth, we become bleak and sad. But not nature. At the end of a cycle of blossoming and sunlight, and before getting engulfed in snow, it acquires a different kind of happiness – glowing orange and red and yellow.

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Scientifically speaking, I learnt that these colors are always present in the trees, but masked by the deep green color of chlorophyll that helps absorb light. When the weather gets cold and sunlight becomes limited, the trees break down the chlorophyll in the leaves and send them to the roots for survival – revealing red, orange and yellow pigments, aka fall colors.

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But my heart sees this beauty as nature’s reminder to us, more than as science. A reminder that life is beautiful, but so is death. That much like everything I’ve learnt growing up, I must unlearn too that death is a saddening end to life.

I scribble in my notebook, sitting on a bed of fallen red and orange leaves: We must go through life like trees in autumn – fiery and bright, even when we are slowly dying inside.

white peacock, albino peacock, new york peacocks

When I try to find too much meaning in the world around me, like sometimes I do, the universe sends me a reminder that I need to spend some moments in awe too.

Spotting a rare white (albino) peacock in a busy city like New York is that reminder.

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And although most famous sights of NYC don’t inspire me, the colors of Central Park do. Strolling, or cycling, or losing myself in the nooks of its somewhat raw bushes as they burst into colors and serenade me with tiny streams, while somewhere in the distance, a lone church casts a haunting reflection in a pond.

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Even though the days are shorter and colder, my walks become longer. My eyes are turned skyward, my feet almost waltzing along in the fallen leaves, my heart leaping at the colors, my mind brimming with inspiration.

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I expected nothing out of New York City, but Alicia Keys was right. These streets will make you feel brand new, these lights (colors?) will inspire you…

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They say fall is the goodbye kiss of summer, but if you ask me, fall in NYC is like the beginning of a passionate love affair; all your senses feel alive, the longing for something else is rare.

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Sometimes in my cocoon of color, I forget altogether than I’m in one of the world’s busiest cities. That a few blocks down, some are rushing to work in fancy skyscrapers and others are arriving in the city with starry eyed dreams. But there are some like me too, who are sneaking outside for a moment of solitude, and when we chat, they tell me how the winds brought them to the city years ago, but come fall, it feels like they are home on the countryside.

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I carry my notebook and pen every time I step out, resolute to use all the inspiration around me to write. But my restless mind doesn’t let me focus. Distracted, I’m always grabbing my camera, always looking for another perspective to capture, always in awe of the colors.

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I’m chiding my sense of wonder, fighting against it to think coherently. Then the wind blows and a red maple leaf dances to the ground, reminding me of the way of the leaf: a leaf lives its destined time in harmony, doesn’t resist the wind that carries it away and when it falls to the ground, it nurtures what will be new leaves. And so should I.

snowfall nyc, winter new york

Then one day, I wake up to see that the dancing leaves have disappeared, and taking their place is white fluffy snow. I run out, the wind numbing my face and hands, for surely, if the leaves changed my perspective on death and life, a cold winter will have much to teach me too, right?

***

As I write this, I’m packing my bags to leave New York City and flying to India after six months in North and Central America. The photos above are from 2014 and 2015, taken with my iPhone 6 and Sony Cybershot MKII. If you visit New York in the fall, I highly recommend spending time in the Riverside area on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Heading to New York City? You might like reading these:

My Slow Travel Guide to New York City

Awesome Free Things To Do in NYC

US Visa for Indians: Tips and Tricks

Has autumn changed your perception of death too?

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34 Comments

  1. Madhu Goel says

    Living in a city like Mumbai, I do not know when I stop living but reading your posts brings me closer to myself

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  2. Beautiful pictures.. Good write up.. Deep and meaningful words.. Fall is my favourite season too.. 🙂

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  3. You have captured the fall so beautifully in colors and moods of this season. I am going to India in January, is that your home country? Besides Delhi, Haridwar and Ahmadabad I will spent my time in Rajasthan. This will be my first time in India, a dream since I was young will be come true, can’t wait.

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    • Thanks Cornelia! And that’s awesome, welcome to India. It’s very much my home country. Please let me know if you need any recommendations for your trip, or just meet some people along the way. I’ll be happy to share 🙂 I’m not sure where I’ll be in January, but would love to catch up with you if we’re in the same place!

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      • Thank you Shivya for your kind respond. I am just beginning to find out accomodations in Rajastan, that’s our main goal of the trip, besides Dehli, Haridwar and Ahmadabat from where we will fly back to Dehli. Well if you have any recommendations for the cities in Rhajastan as far as hotels or B&B’s that would be wonderful, like Jaipur, Jodpur, Udaipur, Pushkar etc.OMG, I think I am asking too much. Anyways thank you for welcoming me to your beautiful country.

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      • One can experience our very own fall colors in dense, untouched forested districts of Purulia, Bankura, West Medinipur of West Bengal in end of the winter(End of Feb-March). The forests of Palash trees turns red with blooming Palash/Shimul flowers and tracks get flowery. It is a sight to cherish.

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  4. funtravelog says

    My new favorite season! Captured beautifully. I hope you have a chance to visit New England in Fall sometime. I have my heart set on Vermont!

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    • Mine too! And thanks, glad you like how I tried to capture it. You know what, I want to visit too but by the time I go back to crash in New York, I’m too broke! Next time 😉

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  5. Loved the pictures.
    such vibrant colors.
    Liked the thought which accompanied the visuals.
    We think we have conquered it all but we have so much more to learn yet from nature .

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  6. soumna says

    Central Park was my favourite too, sans the fall colours. Would definitely love to go again during fall .

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  7. Mesmerizing pictures. Fall has always been my favorite season, for it turns be into a better poet 😉 . Thanks for sharing this gorgeous post.

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  8. It’s too bad you didn’t have a chance to travel further North to “upstate” New York; Central New York to those of us who live there. The Fall colors of Central Park are a tiny window to what Fall is like in the rest of the state.

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