I walked up Ninth Street toward Prospect Park. It would rain in a few hours — or in an hour, or for an hour — and I planned otherwise to sit and nap inside for the rest of the day. After twenty days of traveling I needed a break that I hadn’t properly scheduled for myself. Traveling is work — an easily forgotten truth. And even in this approach of a day off I had ambitions and plans for myself perhaps a bit more effervescent and magical in my thinking, maybe even unreasonable (e.g. actually read something, finish the writing for the day, make at least a page of revisions on the longer piece).
After a few blocks, I passed a synagogue and the brown stones were looking far more park slopish than gowanish. I texted Lorissa and she confirmed this was, in fact, the street of one of the apartments she’d lived on, and I’d stayed. It was, in fact, already Park Slope.
As I cross the boundary of the park at the Lafayette statue a child is throwing a hissy fit as she’s getting buckled back into a stroller. Something inside of me is, too — a little frustrated by how tired I am today, but still pushing myself up the slope of the hill. I walk into the middle of the park and the Celebrate Brooklyn setup continues in the rain, just as it had been the year before. Cities are sometimes calendars. Lives are too.
I can still hear the child screaming as she is rolled south, away from the park.
At the dog beach rocky shore, a woman walking beneath the grove of trees carries two snapping turtles in a medium-sized tupperware container with a square hole cut in the middle. An old couple hunch over a shared phone talking in Russian but also touching shoulder-to-shoulder across the park bench divider in a subtle embrace that once decades ago perhaps was their first non-verbal attempts at affection toward each other. Groundskeepers mow the endless lawn that is well rested from October to April and a truck drives along the hexagonally bricked path collecting garbage and I stumble into looking for my Friday afternoon bench from fifty-one weeks ago.
June the Second, 2017:
I walk around for awhile, like a dog unsatisfied by any place to sit. It’s open and there is a kite and people lounging on blankets and cute girls running or sitting in a group and an orthodox birthday party for a young kid and dogs and then lots of baseball. I sit. Kids walk by. I stare. I look. I try to listen. I then start to answer the question of gratitude. Meditatively the mind wanders and jets fly overhead and those kids catch grounders hit by their father figures.
After an hour I start to find some relaxation and feel like I’m in a groove, rather than perplexed about my place in it. The space and time to reflect, without a pressing agenda, is exactly what I have only had a small inkling that it is what I want and need. Maggie’s “three days of staring at a beach.”
I frequently answer the question of when the sabbatical might end, and the answer has been “a year from now” for the last year and the other q-and-a of when it began floats about the calendar, too. It began more that Friday than it did any other day. As if I need to actually mark the date, instead of perpetually rediscovering other and perhaps purposeful anniversaries. But knowing when a thing begins helps in the evaluation. Did I get what I wanted out of this year? Do you see now the passage of the year — today — as if you could have done all of sabbatical at once, like a time-traveler’s brother? I vaguely feel the answer in the grey haziness of this day off — in a subtle voice on the bench that follows me back and writes itself here.
The rain begins and I pull on my jacket and it’s not as cold because I wear two pairs of socks. The russian couple are off of their bench and walk by me. The maintenance truck passes two feet in front of me. After a period of catching up on a week and a half of un-replied messages, I look to the right and a man without pants is walking up the path away from me. It’s unclear if he is also without underwear and I’d probably be better served by not finding out the answer, despite a genuine curiosity about the varieties of human nature. I’m not the only one on the lawn confused by his passage. He’s with a sweatshirt and a backpack, at least, and I doubt he’s the only Bay-to-Breakers schizophrenic in the park this overcast and empty Tuesday afternoon.
The rain, whether for or in an hour, is less of an issue that I thought, and I realize that likely the same amount of water to fall on my pants and shoes is in my future regardless of when I leave. I walk up and away from the bench in the dry sombra of the tree, nonetheless. I stare at the dog beach pond again and sit again beneath another sombra of leaves and the rain patterns across the surface fade and shift with perspective and distance and time. I notice how the pace of the rain illustrates the water and somehow feels digital, if you watch the entire pond at once, like the reflective piece that hangs above the stairwell at the Renwick by the artist whose installation lights one side of the Bay Bridge. There’s an inflection point where the water is made rough from the droplets and you can’t make out anything digital any more. Just water passing into water. I had gone to the park just to the go to the park, to advance against the rain, and then when I found the rain, I felt and examined everything that I needed for the day.