Yesterday I merrily ditched 17th Century Europe; the banking system of Antwerp, the influence of Catholicism and Protestantism on art and headed out in our unusually balmy October warmth to a nearby park. Sometimes it’s really good to get outside and air the brain. To breathe in the green, watch the shifting play of shadows & sunlight & listen to the wind. Even a footfall on gravel can take on a kind of transcendence if you pay attention. The river runs along the path I walk and the trees are just beginning to flirt with autumn, dropping their leaves tentatively, still not sure about revealing their nakedness.
It didn’t take long however, before a mild sense of melancholy struck me. How is it that melancholy & sublime can share the same moment? I’ve walked this path in the park for years with a close friend, but this year I’ve mostly walked it alone. I passed a couple of ladies, one exclaiming adamantly to other, ‘it’s a size 9.5!’, eyes averted, passing by me like I was a ghost. A little further along a man had stopped with his majestic whippet, all sinew, curves & long legged-ness. I had a rush of wanting to connect over the sheer glory of the whippet’s ‘built for speed’ physique. ‘I bet she can run like wind!’ I was about to say, but he kept his eyes to his path also. How strange it is we pass by each other in this magnificent world never engaging about the obvious and compelling beauty of it all.
Along the way there’s a bridge that crosses over a stream, it’s my favourite part of the walk. On one side of the bridge, the water pools in quiet green reflectiveness, leaves drifting serenely atop its stillness. But on the other, the water rushes violently over craggy rocks to some unknown destination, maybe the river. I walk from side to side, like a dog or small child observing the difference. How like life that is – one moment floating serenely unaware, the next hurdled into the rapids! I’ve often thought how I’d like to sit below on the rocky bank with hot coffee in a paper cup, watching the white capped foam leaping into the flowering nectarine tipped brambles. I’d toast hello to the people passing above on the bridge, pointing out the wonder of the stream. I’ve never done it of course, it’d probably be a bit weird.
This park is filled with untold stories of a children’s school. I walk the perimeter of the stone foundation of a residence, a gymnasium, a workshop and a century old rhododendron garden, musing & inventing lives in my mind. ‘What’, I wonder, as I pass by the cemetery, ‘if i could raise my hand to the graves and make the lost reappear?’ Who would I see? Would they be pleased to return to this strange, exuberant, ever evolving world, or disturbed at the intrusion of their peace? Is this indeed the better place? Or does it just seem so, since it’s all we know?’
Further along the path, I pass a memorial bench. It reads, ‘We have lived by this river everyday of our lives, Kuldip. Our whole lives by this flowing river. Our whole lives flowing by this river’. I contemplate the plaque, wanting to meet this Indian poet reflecting on love, the river and the flow of their lives. Here, five years after this lovely eulogy, i stand imagining their story, enriched by their words. How many people I want to meet simply because of their words…
Back at my car, a single, multi coloured leaf drifted in through my open window. I brought it home, placing it a little fondly on a pile of books, humoring myself about its significance. And since I’m lost for how to end this meandering reflection, I’ll finish with another picture instead.