Among the Reeds

If you’re one of those people, like me, who loves the cold but hates the grey of winter, you live for weekends like this. The sun is out, you still need an extra layer, but you can feel spring coming around the corner – something I wait for through the dirge of snow, bitter cold and icy personalities that sometimes accompany them.

Those of you who know me (or read this blog, or both) know that fall is my favorite season. But I’ll be damned if spring in New York isn’t a close second. And while it’s not officially spring, my husband, my dog and I weren’t about to let a spring-like weekend go to waste. This kind of weather is best for being outside. So we went.

Only after the requisite cup(s) of coffee

(thank god for my husband, who also thanks himself once I’m drinking this liquid lifesaver),

and breakfast to fuel our journey

(thank you again, husband, for the morning meal you’ve taught me to appreciate),

Salem’s incessant air chomping and alien-like vocalizing signaling her desire to go outside were answered (to clarify, she had already “been outside”). Shoes laced and leash on, we offered excitedly, “Salem, how about a W-A-L-K?!”

Her response? A face that said it all, in a Maggie Smith / Dowager Countess kind of way:

“Yes, you dolts, I’ve been asking for a half hour.” How’s that for nonplussed, wordless sass? Woof. We knew it wouldn’t last, so we based the decision to take her out on our hope for attitude improvement rather than current sass level.

You might then imagine her concern when, instead of going for our usual multi-mile jaunt, we instead opened the rear passenger side door and asked her to get in the car. “But, but…” her face protested, “I thought this was supposed to be a walk!” Her concern completely betrayed the earlier couldn’t give a damn if we do or if we don’t attitude. We knew we had made the right choice.


Those of you who know me or who read this blog will also know that we live in an outer borough of New York City. We work in Manhattan, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a healthy enough relationship with the more celebrated (to people outside NY) borough. There’s simply too many other interesting things to do for a lot less money and much more space when you live – not just reside – outside it.

Case in point: the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, which sort of snakes from Coney Island all the way to Little Neck Bay. Along the miles and miles of pedestrian and bike trails in Queens, there’s this weird multi-world experience to be had, a bizarre “on the precipice of serenity” sort of being that can only happen when, as pictured below, you’ve got highway on your left filled with city-bound traffic, and the bay on your right, which if you’re a dog and you’re lucky, will be filled with seagulls, swans and other birds best for chasing.

BQG - cars and sound

Not exactly my idea of perfection (or even a greenway), but there really are some spectacular sights to enjoy once you get deeper on the trail. You can see a bit of what I’m talking about around the bend on the right-hand side, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

If you are starting on the Queens side, which begins up by Ft. Totten Park and this gem of a view,

Ft Totten Park - Little Neck Bat

you might be surprised to hear that, in the immortal words of Big Yellow Taxi, “they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.” I swear, I could live on the water forever.  A few million dollars stand between me and that dream, so thank god for parks and walking trails that bring views like this to the masses FOR FREE.

If you then follow the pathway deeper into Queens, you will eventually hit Salem’s favorite spot of the walk, Bayside Marina. The dock is closed, but that didn’t stop an odd assortment of two swans, probably upwards of 50 seagulls and a couple of pigeons from squatting there – and from subsequently attracting Salem’s attention. Her desire to chase (and possibly get?) those birds cannot be overstated. Pictured below, the initial hunt and wider scene.

Adorable. Totally justified hitting our 10,000 step goal on this walk alone. And putting up with Salem’s earlier sass. But it wasn’t really my favorite part of the mid-morning adventure.

No, instead I favored a much more nondescript location. There were no markers indicating where we were, no posted suggestions for what sort of activity fitness buffs could perform to up their workout game (p.s. that included everything from jumping jacks, to heel touches, to punching. Yes, punching).

My favorite spot ended up being further toward Brooklyn, close to the water, but away from the other excitement, among the reeds. They weren’t just visually striking – their deep golden yellows and nearly clay-like browns swaying in surprising beauty against the bluest of blue skies – they also drew me in for their quiet reach and unassuming confidence, as if to say (in the way only anthropomorphism allows): “We are here, be with us.”

BQG - reeds


There is an expression, “getting into the weeds,” that has troubled me for a long time. It means that someone or something has gotten too caught up in the details – which of course implies that details are something one can actually be too caught up in.

Sure, there are times when getting to the point matters (like in business environments, for instance). And in those times, there is an expectation that, at least at first, details will be left out – mentioned only when invited because someone else thinks they’re important.

But not everything is business. Sometimes details matter. And many are missed under the guise of someone being too “busy” or too “focused” – which really means, “I don’t care.” Sad – because that means someone is ultimately missing the point.

With pride I find myself among the weeds more often than not. Betwixt and between them I find all sorts of opportunities for understanding, for meaning, for appreciating what life has to offer.

Now especially, living in one of the busiest cities in the world, where so often people cannot (read: choose not to) slow down, with necessary stubbornness I hunker further into the weeds, knowing somewhere I will find myself again and in new ways.

This weekend, among the reeds, my husband, my dog and I paused long enough to remember that. There among the weeds, the reeds, the littles.

Ryan Vale McGonigle

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