Gardens in western civilization are heavily weighted with symbolism and mythic allusions. We visit them to vicariously experience Eden, to see a tamed version of Nature, which is fearsome in the raw, to escape the gridiron of the city, to revive our spirits by contact with Mother Earth, and so on. Prospect Park, in Brookly, NY, happens to be in the Park-as-garden-as-Eden mode, as opposed to the more formal gardens you might see in Paris, say. For my money, it is far superior to its much more celebrated brother, both by Olmsted, Central Park in Manhattan.
Sometimes Mother Nature intrudes on our little faux naturel versions of au naturel living, and often, we people don’t like it one bit. The New York Times had an article the other day about a swan spat, involving two families of mute swans (they make noise, but they’re called mute). One male patriarch is trying to run the other family off his turf, and he’s getting pretty agressive about it. Some local residents are horrified, and they are trying to redress this imbalance of forces by helping the persecuted family of swans and cygnets. (Oh yes, they are all sooo cute!) Park officials and workers, wisely, are refusing to get involved, and want nature to act this out on its own. The woman in the video at the link provided above teaches literature at Hunter College. I wonder what her specialty is – English Romantic poetry?
I recall a personal experience in that twin Edenic enclave, across Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park, the utterly gorgeous Brooklyn Botannical Gardens. There is a large and beautiful Japanese garden within it, and the centerpiece is a sizable pond with some ornamental posts. During one visit when I walked by the pond, there was a large crowd of visitors ooohing and aaahing so I went to see what the commotion was about. Several families of ducks were swimming about with their very young ducklings, fluffy and brown, kept close.
As I was leaving that day, I passed by the pond again, and as I approached it, I passed several people leaving with stricken faces. Some children were crying. What was the problem? I went to the edge of the pond amidst people shaking their heads and turning away in disgust or confusion. On one of the ornamental posts in the pond was a Black Capped Night Heron, often seen roosting there. In its large and powerful beak, it was holding a duckling that it was maneuvering down its gullet.
It was a teachable moment.