There is an inexorable force that pulls me into the oval. Placed here in 1866 by Calvert Vaux, before the memorial arch of soldiers and sailors crowned with Lady Columbia on her chariot, before the Art Deco public library across the street built to look like an open book, this planned oval introduces Prospect Park.
Five years in Brooklyn, four apartments, and so many neighborhood walks later, I find my steps still veer toward the Bailey Fountain in the center of the oval, finished in 1932 after the subway won the underground space needed for the previous Electric Fountain and its light shows (F. W. Darlington created the dancing city water displays of his day with pneumatic valves and thousands of jets), that had replaced a leaky 1873 domed fountain with colored glass and gaslights. Trains run beneath your feet and cars race around the busiest traffic circle in the borough as you sit with Neptune, Triton, a boy with a cornucopia, and the nude figures that represent Wisdom and Felicity.
You have to stalk quiet in this city, wrestle with the stature of everyone you pass. They deserve to be here as much as you do, and anyway, any tenure is earned by dint of returning. By ignoring the noise. The noise is always just outside any circle you draw, muffled, present. As impossible to cancel as the low buzz that makes this place go. The noise is stealthy and whispers reminders. This is the bench where I wore three sweaters and cried: my grandmother was in the hospital for the last time. That is the bench where I knew he’d fallen for me. The same bench where I knew we were over. The curved part I come to pace thinking about people who will never change their patterns, knowing I need to change mine. Thinking that it might be nice someday to again have someone who likes to know where I am off to when I slip out, who runs fingers through my hair that has been so many colors lately and wonders. It’s another gift, meantime, that the city appreciates, but does not require explanations.
In front of the still fountain one morning in March, I balanced dozens of eggs with 40 women on the vernal equinox. Today, little summer campers march through holding their knot on the class rope, dogs snap at the mist slicking the stones. The clouds shift, alternating the water sprays between dazzling and determined over the virtuous statues in this toehold that can be a little bit yours for the taking on a Thursday in July.
A few more days
A final Hi meeting
The local neighborhood bar has a quiet time between six and nine. It is a place that specializes in coffee, beer and seasonal menus. There is just enough of each for a satisfying snack and effective buzz. After the time when the laptop lids close and before the social gatherings start -- there is a sort of twilight*. Often this time is a fugitive ground rife with creative inspiration and meditative work -- of the kind that results in personal reward.*twilight may refer to civil, nautical or astronomical variety depending on your social or terrestrial condition
A man positions his mouse on the edge of his browser window. He clicks, holds and drags the viewport first left then right. The content of a video game promo micro site responds and adapts to the available space. To the man, this is more delightful than the game itself.
A man laboriously moves his piano down three levels onto the subway platform. Classic vocals and strided chords -- he played so well I swore he was blind. Oblivious to the heat on that August stage, he was most in touch with his audience -- whom he elevated with his music.
A woman should do exactly as she pleases no matter what a man may think.
As the Dalai Lama once said, "It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room."
"No one understands me," she said. Her grandmother was silent for a minute. It seemed she was searching for an answer in the star speckled sky. "But no one understands anyone in this world, darling. We are all unique. It is what gives us a sense of wonder."