Saturday, March 3, 2012

Moments in a park

The eye can see, and perhaps hear, many things. All those details that we take in, that rest somewhere, only to be awakened by some unseen remembrance. A whisp of air, consisting of an ineffable quality that we label "the past" and stranger things than that.

As I walked through one of the entrances to St. Stephen's Green, I thought of a woman; strange, archetypal (in as much as she could be) and entirely of my imagination.

She stood there watching me as I walked by, like some ghostly spectre, whose motivation was beyond me, her deathly stillness betraying nothing. She was dressed in black, like the spectre from a film that I watched recently. In it the ghostly presence cast a shroud of darkness over a small town in Victorian England.

But mine was a more whimsical thought than that, and filled with irony. A bright sunny imagining, on a bright sunny day, of a dark brooding strange woman. This contradiction only made me laugh at the image, an image completely in and of my mind.

The sun was shining through trees crowded along each side of the path. Red and white tape was wrapped around some of them, hanging loose in the spaces between the trees, falling slightly, and blowing in the breeze, marking the area with caution. This was a place where you should not go, beyond those trees marked by the red and white tape. But there was nothing discernible beyond it, nothing being built, no crime scene, nothing exotic, nothing to entice. Just the tape, as far as I could see.

I walked into a clearing. The grass was perfectly cut, and to my left was a mound. On its side a couple lay into each other, her on top of him, his arm wrapping around her slightly, whispering to each other what I imagine were stupid, beautiful things.

Parents and their children enjoyed themselves under the shining sun. As I walked between clearings, along a path hosting many of our leafy cousins on either side, I saw a woman. She held a plastic wrapper, inside its translucency a muffin. Her clothes were strange, neither of her age, nor of any style she ought to be sporting. Yet in a strange, haphazard way it suited her. Because she was my premonition, that strange woman, in the park and of the park.

She stopped as I walked by, lost within her own thoughts, some unique perogative all of her own. She walked on again, as if touched by some hidden intention, as if lost, listening to the music of the spirits in the trees. That was the old story that some farmer told me once, of people being enticed by the fairies, enticed by the spirits of nature.

My whimsical thought of the strange woman in the park was delivered to me by half, more or less, delivered in the flesh. Not some witching ghostly presence; and yet imbued with those things, this strange woman, my premonition, in the park.

This world is indeed strange and mysterious.

What more can I say of her, other than that I walked on and let her be? Nothing about which I can speak sensibly. My expectation blossomed, a notion of the strangeness of the park, any park. Cars drive by on roads all around, and shadows of brick and metal loom large. Yet here, in this space, was a piece of nature.

This is the country in the city, or how it is imagined, how it ought to be. What strange places parks are, a piece of nature imagined only in contrast to the unnatural and the city. A strange spectre, haunting a dynamism that imbues our sprawling urban centres. An unnatural dynamism, or even an un-nature that creates the space for human action and free will.

Did I see a god of sorts, the god of the parks, a ghostly spectre and a lost woman, coming together to tell me about the nature of parks and their cities. A ghostly spectre, haunting our city with the idea of the natural, and its ungodly other. And that ungodly other is all the things of the city - those human things!

I came then to another clearing. In the middle of it, in a broken ring of flowers, a group of girls hoola-hooped. Each had their own coloured ring, spinning them around themselves, throwing them up in the air and taking centre stage.

I sat on an old green bench. I had come here to write after a wasted trip up to the RDS. Before, I was thinking of writing about God and books and other things removed like that. Yet as I looked at the performers and their performance, I noticed behind those spinning rings a carved bronze throne. It was stylised towards some eternal vision, a throne that we imagined existed elsewhere, an impression of another time, where such a throne would have been impossible.

And in this eternal vision sat a little prince, lord of the park, in his red bomber jacket, proud as punch as he surveyed his court, the performance, all the clearing, along with the rest of his roofless, skyhigh kingdom.

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