In the lap of nature

Last Updated 30 June 2012, 12:09 IST

On a recent visit to the US, I had a glimpse of two of nature’s marvellous faces. Whereas one is nature’s own authentic face, the other is man’s sincere efforts to replicate nature.

I am talking about the Yosemite National Park in California and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York. There are many valuable lessons to learn from the way they are being maintained in stark contrast to the way we manage our heritage sites and national parks.

The Yosemite National Park is easily one of the most enchanting wonders of nature. The mountains and the valleys here are so entrancing that no visitor can be unaffected by its sheer magnitude, and wondrous charm. For me, it was a serendipitous experience because I went there at my hosts’ behest, without knowing what was in store for me.

Some four million visitors come to this village every year. On a summer’s day, it is estimated that about 14,000 people are in Yosemite Village.

Established in 1890 as the first wilderness park of the US, it covers an area of seven lakh acres. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A bill was passed with the then president, Abraham Lincoln, who signed the legislation on June 30, 1864. History has since told us that this was a landmark event.

Never before had any government anywhere set aside so vast an area for natural beauty to be preserved for public use.

Towering more than 3,000 ft above Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world.

There are many cliffs, mountains and rock formations here. Yosemite Falls is also the highest waterfall in the US. There is no end to the mystery that is Yosemite. In a nutshell, it is nature’s marvel and it has to be seen to be believed.

Rock climbers face one of the biggest challenges to their grit and determination here. Trekkers will get some 800 miles of marked trails for a gruelling test of endurance all around the valley and on steep rocky heights. One will be amazed by the huge sequoia trees.

They can live to be more than 3,000 years old. They can be as tall as 300 ft and as high as a 27-storied building. Scientists are still trying to figure out how they pump water from the ground to that height. All over, one can see only tall trees — pine, cedar and fir trees. Of course, sequoia towers above them all.

Home to some 300 species of animals, this park is rich in fauna — mule deer, gray squirrels, big-horn sheep and black bears are the most visible ones. Hotels and restaurants warn tourists against feeding them with human food. It also attracts a penalty.

“No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote John Muir, whose crusade led to the creation of the park, and its official proclamation. In fact, John Muir and Yosemite are synonymous, for such has been his contribution to nurture this jewel in the crown of nature.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York can best be described as an
exemplary botanical garden. This 100-year-old garden of around 52 acres houses thousands of plants, attracting over nine lakh visitors each year. The meticulous organisation of the garden is

Spring season brings most flowers to bloom. Cherry blossoms, lilacs, blue-bells, orchids and magnolias were all in bloom, spreading a tapestry of varied hues. It is a delectable feast to one’s eyes, leaving its charm and fragrance wafting all along.

It surely is a heavenly experience One of the things that caught my attention was the chattering of school children in groups with their teachers. It was quite fascinating to see them explore the garden. When asked, one of the teachers had said that the idea behind this field trip was to bring children closer to nature.

There is a garden here, which is maintained by school children. They write their names on the nursery beds and maintain them. This one acre is exclusively for

The Shakespeare Garden is yet another attraction here. This English cottage garden exhibits more than 80 plants mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays and poems.

Labels give the plants common or Shakespearean names, their botanical names, relevant quotations and, in some cases, a graphic representation of the plant.
The Bonsai Museum arouses the curiosity of all visitors. Bonsai is a Japanese art form where miniature trees are grown in containers.

Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds.I experienced a virtual Wordsworthian enlightenment in these visits and its impact is going to linger within me for a long time to come.

(Published 30 June 2012, 12:08 IST)

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