Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Walk to the Park (rewrite)

The air is still, but every now and then a small breeze flutters the leaf tips and then all is still again, not enough wind to move the dried brown maple leaf on the ground near the bench. The grey blotchy clouds above are still. They block the sun and there are no sharp, severe shadows. All is muted and blend to dark under the larger trees and bushes. It’s such a quiet place, even when the car horn honks, it sounds way off in the distance. And a bus clanks by, and a plane drones overhead. But there are no harsh immediate sounds; the park feels isolated, encased in heavy oppressing blankets.

A man, sleeping with his arms crossed, lying on a bench near the garden, jeans dirty and a bright blue jacket covering his forehead and eyes to block out the muted sun. An English sparrow flutters down, with small heart-beat sound of wings, and lands. It picks at the bread crumb specks on the ground. Looking up, surprised, it quickly flutters away.

The center garden is sun-baked dirt and a few weeds. There are dusty rocks and nondescript bushes surrounded by grey cement curbs, cracked and broken. The dirty plants that are here haven’t had water since the last rain several days ago. The colors that should have been there are long gone. The memory of sunshine yellow marigolds. The orange trumpets of nasturtiums. Purple pansies and red poppies. All should be there, a sign of life and youth.

Once this was a place for laughing children, who played hide-and-seek and tossed their bright balls, soft blankets spread on the grass for sandwiches and naps. Laughter and birds floated among the leaves. There were fewer trees, still tall, but with wide open green and long soft grass. And when there was sunshine, it was bright and cast long deep shadows in the afternoon. This was a destination for families and couples would walk along the path, intent on each other. The air felt light and sometimes someone would lean up against one of the old evergreens and nap in the sunshine.

Around the park, the buildings grew tall and shadowed even the trees. It was still a destination, but now it was for business men, to escape their dry black-and-white worlds for a spell, and rest among the green leaves and colorful flowers. Women met and talked about their day. Children still played there and couples still walked the path, close, intent on only each other. The life of the city grew up around the park, but still the green and space felt good.

Now cars and traffic, the rush to get from one place to the next have replaced the strolls and wanderings and restful quiet. The growing shadows from the now giant buildings have left marks on the park, and it has become shades of grey green, the brightness slowly evaporated. It’s become a place to go through, and no longer a place to go to and relax. It’s muted, with no bright spots of colors. This place of green in the city doesn’t bring with it the feeling of calm and rest expected of tall evergreen trees and grass. Buses and cars wait for their turn at the light, before lurching forward. A sea-plane hums overhead. The paths are littered with brown dead weeds stuck in the sidewalk cracks.

Now and then there’s a pleasant surprise for those who look up from the sidewalk. There are a group of tall hydrangea bushes, with colors of the sky, light blues, bright blues, and violet. But it’s easy to miss these and to just quickly walk on by, intent on getting through the park and to somewhere else downtown. It’s no longer a place to wander and rest; it’s somehow a unsettled place and people push on, with their heads down, hoping to never catch any one else’s eye. More people now walk along the path near the cars rather than walk through the park. They’d rather listen to the noise and watch the black smoke from the buses than to take the chance to walk through the park.

Across the street, the pink neon sign slowly turns, flashing “car wash”. The white car is pushed out the end of the tunnel. It’s headlights flick on and the blowers starts up to dry the away the remaining wet. Pacing the sidewalk is a well dressed man, in his white shirt and professional suit, talking on his cell phone. He paces outside the car wash, waiting to once again be on his way to solve the urgent problem of the hour. He pulls open the door, slides in gracefully, and pulls away. He goes up the wrong way on the one way street, intent on his conversation, never noticing.

The sleeping man awakes and sits up, shaking off the sleep. He carefully packs up his gear and slings his coat over his am. It’s still too warm to put his coat on, so he’ll need to carry it for now. He gathers his small pack and rises to his feet. He slowly passes the poor dirt mound without noticing. The English sparrow has been replaced by a pigeon, head bobbing picking over the same bits left by the sparrow. Darkness is coming and the already blurred shadows just continue to get darker gradually. The clouds overhead become greyer and the shadows now become indistinct from the rest of the ground. The only bright spots are now the cars, waiting for permission from the traffic light so they can continue on their journey.

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