On walks along the Hudson, I’ve come across lots of interesting plants, some intentionally placed, most not. There is a certain section just past the former sanitation building where Riverside Park South starts. This little stretch is for some reason woebegone in contrast to the more well-cared-for trees, grasses, and seasonal garden beds a few steps away. The stone pavers are always popping up and half broken here. The river washes up the rocks, splashing the thin soil with a brine that many plants would find intolerable. The weedy things that tend to grow here are chickory, mullein, lamb’s quarters, golden rod, dandelions, and wild asters, but a few days ago none of these plants were yet visible. I did, however, spot some shrubbery that took my breath away.
Against the gray backdrop of the river and sky, golden butterflies fluttered. There is plenty of official outdoor artwork in the park, some of which I am very fond. This, however, was the work of a mystery artist—or sprite. Someone had to do this careful wiring after dark or in the very early morning. And the butterflies themselves were made of trimmed feathers, skillfully joined and spray painted with gold paint. A flock of tourists came by just as I was taking one last picture. “Shhh,” I said, “don’t scare them away.” They immediately took out their smartphones.