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An Unconventional Summer in New York: When Geography, Nature and the Weather Dominated the Conversation

The summer is not technically over until September 22, 2009 at 5:18 p.m. (for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere), the date of the autumnal equinox, but with the nearness of Labor Day (Monday, September 7) and the subsequent start of the school year, it's nearly over for most practical purposes. It's not just the calendar that's bringing the season to a close but the subtle perception of the shortening days as the north pole tilts away from the sun. Along the shoreline of the Hudson yesterday afternoon, with the sun playing hide-and-seek from behind the clouds, the summer looked like it was winding down.

From Summer 2009

Summer never fully hit its stride this year in New York, with June and July staying under the 90 degree mark, and many August days have been compromised by erratic pop-up storms. A recent violent storm caused an extraordinary amount of damage to trees in the city, with the northern section of Central Park particularly hard hit. The storms became a frequent topic of conversation, both in person and online, with many people sharing their images of lightning strikes over the city or of a particularly colorful sky after a storm's passing.

Over the past three months, many of the city's top stories fell under the related categories of geography, the natural world, and the weather. For starters, the celebrations relating to the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage have focused attention on the area's bountiful and diverse natural heritage. The visualizations of the Mannahatta Project, as opposed to the Manhattan Project which implies blowing us to smithereens, showed the beauty of this Eden. Yet, the major events of the quadricentennial celebration are still ahead, especially in September, the month Hudson sailed the Half Moon into New York Bay. (See the websites NY400 and Explore NY 400 for more information.) After two centuries of serving as a military base, Governor's Island is now open to the public on weekends, giving many individuals a sense of New World discovery. The opening of the High Line fits into these summer highlights, too, because we can now see the city and its famous western river in a new way.

A Look Ahead

"In the transparent, mutable cumulus the Americans found endless possibilities which mirrored the larger esthetic issues behind each painter's specific vision."
- Barbara Novak, Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980) p. 97'

An upcoming series here will map walks to the Hudson River from various vantage points along the west side, taking in the sights of the city as well as views of the river. Along the way I plan to discuss several artists of the Hudson River School, the 19th century landscape painters who were inspired by the river, many of whom lived and worked, at least for a time, in the big city. Several made long-lasting contributions to New York culture. At the very least, I'll stretch out what's left of the summer.

Hudson River Park, New York, NY, looking west to New Jersey, between Pier 45 and Pier 46, near Charles Street and the West Side Highway. August 24, 2009. 3:51 p.m. Image by Walking Off the Big Apple. Visit the official site of Hudson River Park for more information about the location.

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