New York High by Claudia Brennan

There is a stanza in Emily Dickinson’s “I died for beauty” that examines the inevitable supremacy the natural world holds over the follies of mankind. In the poem, people live, people die, and nature ultimately erases any trace of their existence.

“And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms.
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.”

In much the same way, by the 1960’s the New York Central Railroad that lay elevated above Chelsea and the Meatpacking district fell into disuse and disrepair and was slowly reclaimed by wild grasses.

| The High Line, image by Joel Sternfeld, 2000 |

Images of the abandoned railroad chronicled by photographer Joel Sternfeld depict a scene that is almost apocalyptic. The natural wasteland that sprung up in the wake of human desertion practically foreshadows what could occur if the entire city was similarly vacated by human life.

Today however, the weeds and shrubs and anachronistic railway tracks have been cultivated and redeveloped into an urban utopia that transcends the ordinary passage of life on Manhattan streets.

| The High Line, image by Claudia Brennan, 2012 |

In place of the former desolation, the railroad has been repurposed into an elevated greenway known as the High Line littered with benches and frequented by New Yorkers in search of an alternative view of their city. A view that encompasses what once was and also provides a taste of what could quite plausibly be once more, should nature again uphold its role in the metamorphoses that occur in the cycle of use and disuse; life, death and regeneration.

| The High Line, image by Claudia Brennan, 2012 |

Claudia Brennan

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