Monday, September 15, 2014

the color of gratitude

One of my favorite things about Central Park is that there is an abundance of human nature.
While the grandeur of the natural world is scarce in New York City, the grandeur of human nature flourishes all around us in overabundance.

On a run through Central Park, I see beautiful little waterfalls or little brambles and rambles of woods and thickets. There are streams and lakes and sparkling  reservoirs of water, sunny lakes and calm ponds and benches around them upon which to sit.

But more importantly, there are the most wonderful specimens of humans that populate the park.
There is the grandma doing yoga among the dark of the tall trees, lit up only by a ray of sunlight. Grandma Yogi I have named her. I feel like she is just waiting for the brave young hero to find her, in his quest for a Mentor.
 There is the woman running past wearing a shirt that says: "Ping-Pong til I die." I'm all for genteel, organized party sports, but goodness, what a horrible fate that would be. It sounds like something out of a Grimm's fairytale: the evil villain is punished by being handed a red-handled ping-pong paddle, and it sticks to her hand, and she is forced to play table tennis until she drops dead from exhaustion.

Up by Harlem Meer, the elderly gentlemen congregate on the benches. They talk together in slow, languid English, or rapid, easygoing Espanol. They wear sombreros or baseball caps. They watch the world pass by them. They feed the ducks. They seem to grow out of the benches. They belong to the landscape just as much as the old trees and the rocks that sprout out of the hillocks. They are the masters of this park.

As much as the men blend in so naturally to the park, there are others who are so obviously of a different world than their surroundings, like a payphone in the wilderness. I have seen multiple people walking around with their iphones on a strange boomstick contraption.
As they walk through the park with their companion, they also record their walk from their point of view. Fascinated, I watch them digitally preserve everything their eyes are seeing. Mark Twain says nothing spoils a good walk like a game of golf, so I wonder what he would say if he saw these folks walking around with their iphone boomstick.

I ran past a woman who looked like a woman from a Brontë novel. I can barely explain what makes a woman look like she walked out of a Brontë novel, but she does. She had that sort of wide-eyed innocent look that was also made wise through the experience of misery. She had clear skin, a face that was perfectly face-shaped. Not round, not square, not jowly, no dramatic, high cheekbones or elfin pointy chin. The cheekbones and the jawline conspired together to create the shape of the face without drawing any attention to themselves. I was fascinated, because I had never seen a person who embodied Brontëan beauty as this woman did.

Then there was the bohemian couple playing violin by the Conservatory water.
A perfect Sunday afternoon might look like this:
reading Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth while a young woman in a peasant skirt with a red braid hanging down her back sings "La Vie en Rose" while the sun sparkles off the sailboat-speckled water, and elderly gentlemen with newsboy hats read books or hold hands with their spouses, while young children watch the bow of the violin moving back and forth and back and forth, enchanted by the music coming from this magical instrument.

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