Jamaica? No, she wanted to.

Stop what you’re doing right now and plan a trip to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. I say this in all earnestness, despite the fact that I arrived late in the afternoon and had only made it about a third of the way around the West Lake (there’s an East Lake too) when I went completely off track and wandered about a mile into the depths of nowhere before realising my mistake. I turned around just in time to get caught in an unholy thunderstorm, after which I traipsed back the way I came as dusk was falling, so I actually only saw a fraction of the refuge. The wildlife I glimpsed comprised one ground squirrel and three birds flitting by so quickly I couldn’t recognise them – the rest of them, unlike me, were wise enough to find shelter before the thunder and lightning rolled in  – and despite all that, it was one of the best outings I’ve had to date here in New York.

The thing that knocked my socks (and wellies) off was the exquisite plantsmanship here. Layer upon layer of texture and colour assail you at every turn. There was a decadent use of height and level that made these grounds the most joyous, playful experience I have had in New York. It was all I could do to stop myself turning cartwheels along the leafy lanes and I must confess, if it had been slightly less muddy, I probably would have. I lost count of the number of times I turned a corner and was brought to a standstill by the beauty of the vista spread out before me. I found myself turning in circles because there was so much to see, all at once, you didn’t know what to look at first. My eyes were drawn up arching trees, down cascading vines to tangles of branches dripping with berries over crimson groundcover, then back up along towering grasses – a visual rollercoaster.

This place is the stuff of dreams, and I don’t mean that figuratively. It’s as if someone has combined all the very best elements of childhood stories like The Secret Island and The Enchanted Wood with a healthy dash of Monet and a liberal sprinkle of Klimt and dropped them with reckless abandon into this patch of land in Jamaica Bay. Top it all off with the heady scent of wild honeysuckle and if it hadn’t been for the massive storm, I’d probably still be there.

Straight out of an Enid Blyton children's novel.
Veils of berries tumble into the pathways.
This tree definitely looks enchanted to me.
Layers of gorgeous texture.
A peephole in the hedgerow hints at vistas yet to come.
Wow, isn't nature great?
It always amazes me that this delicate little flower can bowl you over with its scent.
You couldn't dream up a more beautiful woodland scene.
Exuberant displays of berries everywhere.
Great splashes of colour, vibrant berries and tangled vines, where to look first?
I love the burst of colour and the crazy texture.
While berries and leaves gaudily steal the show at this time of year, there is nothing more quietly romantic than vines twining around one another like long lost lovers.
There's a kind of magic at work here.
Monet was here.
Sometimes things are at their most beautiful when they're barely there at all.
The West Lake is far off in the background. This was the only glimpse of it I got today thanks to my detour.
Such a lovely lane, I had to follow it. It is at this point I should have turned left.
Colour, texture and shape, in deliciously messy disarray, tousle for your attention.
Soaring grasses sway before a beautiful but ominous sky.
If you look closely, you'll see a solitary bird escaping the oncoming storm. I wasn't so lucky.
I made it this far before the storm hit...
...after the storm. On the plus side, the birch bark glowed like white fire in the flashes of lightning.
At least my feet stayed dry.
Cheery yellow berries brighten up the post-thunderstorm gloom.
Rain-soaked bark.
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10 thoughts on “Jamaica? No, she wanted to.”

  1. Wow….wow.wow.

    Your two pix of the approaching storm (as are all these images) are so beautiful. It’s nice to find someone else who exults in the beauty of nature. Love the wet plane tree bark. I live near NY (25 miles north) and have some favorite trails and woods here. But you might have persuaded me to take a drive!

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