An Island of Tranquility Amidst the Fray: A Stroll Through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

My trip to Brooklyn, New York to visit my daughter and her family was ending soon. I would be taking off on a Jet Blue flight from JFK Airport to Albuquerque that evening. But one last adventure awaited me: a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

It is one of my favorite places to visit in New York, even more than a show on Broadway or a trip to one of the bazillion museums. My daughter and her family love it as well, they are members and go frequently. It is also a great place to take my grandchildren—an 8-year-old girl and 4-year-old twins, a boy and girl. They love to race across the lawns, dart behind trees, climb rock formations, and anything else that involves movement.

Rather than race across the grounds, my daughter and I were intent on smelling practically every rose in the gardens and marveling at the various specimens the gardens has collected.

One site that intrigued me was The Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden. It is small wetland and riparian environment with a meandering path that leads visitors past a babbling brook and tranquil pond surrounded by resilient plants that flourish at the water’s edge.

The pond and stream, known as Belle’s Brook, are part of the Garden’s Water Conservation Project which allows the Garden to filter and recirculate fresh rainwater and groundwater throughout its 52-acre watershed, reducing water consumption and easing the burden on the city storm drains.

It is the first project of its scale and complexity in North America and a model for reducing use of freshwater and lessening overflow into the city’s sewer system. This new project allows the Garden to filter and recirculate fresh rainwater and groundwater collected throughout a significant portion of the grounds and channel it through the Water Garden pond, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden pond, and catchment sites along the brook system. The project will reduce BBG’s outdoor freshwater consumption in its water features by almost 96% from 22 million gallons to less than a million gallons per year.

I love this type of innovative approach to water conservation and returning our natural landscape into what nature had intended all along.

Another beautiful spot was the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. I was surprised to find that it is one of the oldest and most visited Japanese-inspired gardens outside Japan. It is a blend of the ancient hill-and-pond style and the more recent stroll-garden style, in which various landscape features are gradually revealed along winding paths. It was fun to stroll along the paths, seeing many delightful formations along the way. Although the children saw very little as they raced through the twisty turns as if they were racing in Monte Carlo.

The garden features artificial hills contoured around a pond, a waterfall, and an island, along with carefully placed rocks. Architectural elements include wooden bridges, stone lanterns, a viewing pavilion, a Shinto shrine, and a dramatic vermilion-colored wooden torii.

The pond was the big attraction for the kids. They found numerous turtles sunning themselves in the pond and promptly named them all. Robin just swam over to visit Elsa, while Rosie dove underwater to see Vera. It seemed as though nature inspired their imaginations to run wild.

Although the visit wasn’t quite long enough, it was time to head to the airport. I said good-bye to the island of tranquility nestled amidst the bustle and concrete of Brooklyn. Nature has a way of soothing nerves, sparking imagination, and putting life’s daily trials into perspective. I am lucky to have visited such an inspiring place and the experience was all that much better with my fun daughter and my three spirited grandchildren along on the adventure.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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