Parks are magical

22 Apr

Parks are magical. In the middle of cement, between buildings and cars and smokestacks, there appears, as an apparition, grass and trees and ponds and waterfalls.

I forget they were there first. Everything else grew around them, eventually squeezing them into a concentrated  place.

Before cement and before smokestacks and before cars, everything was one large park, of course. Now, it’s s something small, a token of what once was, a preservation to wonder at, to imagine, what life might once have been.

It is for pleasure, yes, but is it not more for memory—for the day when we cannot recall the smell of damp earth or the sound of wind through leaves?

When the weather’s nice, I eat lunch in the park. I walk down a hill coated with blacktop, and below it, rimmed with a guardrail, lays the park.

 And it’s spring.

The snow has melted away. The birds I can hear chirping. The water is cool and thawed as it rushes over the waterfall and through creek beds. Most spectacular are the yellow buttercups brushed across the ground.

Into this otherworldly place I enter, eyes bleary from staring at a screen and body sore from sitting in a chair. The dim, artificial light from the inside is replaced by vast brightness and splashing color from the outside; the whirring sounds of electricity and tapping from typing are replaced by kids laughing, mothers reprimanding and most joyous of all, rushing water as it falls, down, down, down into the pool beneath.

The park is small. As I sit on the bench, I can see where it ends, where the cars whiz past. But to see the cars, my eyes must pass through forest, thin forest, but forest nonetheless. People meander through, mostly children with their parents, some young lovers holding hands, some elderly couples wearing winter jackets, holding each-other.

Ducks waddle past. Some bob in the water or beg for food from delighted children, who squat down and stare at the colorful birds, heads cocked to one side as their mother’s tell them to back up lest they fall into the shallow water. They never do.

There is an old red mill on the side of the park, built into the edge. It once used the power from the waterfall. Now it lives as something for photograph backgrounds, something retro and trendy for a band, peeling paint  for a CD cover.

 The mill looms over the park. From almost anywhere in it, you can see it. It was, perhaps, a first attempt at using natural resources in the area. Now it’s obsolete. It’s been deemed now by someone somewhere as a historic structure. Now there’s a brass plaque on it.   

If magic is something unnatural, something belonging where it has no place, then parks in cities are the magician’s greatest trick. Like Central Park in New York City, they fool us into thinking we’re somewhere we’re not, we’re people we’re not.

 For a few moments in our day we can be country-dwellers. We can stretch out on soft grass and drink pure sights. In a place where there is no hot cement, no hurried crowds or loud roads, we can be, if only for a half an hour, transported to another world where there are waterfalls and yellow buttercups.

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