There’s a bit of a secret-society feel to my sunrise park walks. I feel like I am a part of a delightful mystery that the rest of the city chooses not to share. You begin to see the same people: the chatty bike riders, the power walkers festooned with headphones, the grimly focused marathoners-in-training, the other dog walkers hoping their animals will behave when passing another dog this time. You say hello to the same people each morning. Heck, you say hello at all. I’ve walked in the park in the afternoon and evening, and at those times you walk past other park-goers, eyes averted, firmly minding your own business. In the morning it’s different. I greet everyone I see, and I don’t feel in doing so as if I am invading their personal space.
In my secret society park I know where the best cobwebs are, and what plants are getting ready to bloom. I have a favorite moss patch, and the dogs have a favorite lily leaf to mark each day (Don’t ask me, it’s like a dog billboard or something.) I’ve seen my very favorite, rotten skeleton tree collapse into nothingness, and a new tree grow from the shattered stump.
Then a few weeks ago I began to see a new group of park citizens – children on their way to school. Moms walking with kids, kids on bicycles. That was different. Then I noticed that the lotus—at their peak in late June—are beginning to rot and fade. Soon they will be gone and the croaking frog that sounds like a particularly ungifted aspiring cellist will have to find a new place to live.
The coneflowers aren’t glorious six foot monsters anymore, but more sedate clumps. Still attracting bees, but not with the same wild majesty they had in July. I feel that change in my heart, and it makes me mournful in a way I don’t necessarily understand. I hate summer. The heat and sweat and inhospitable nature of it. But somehow this year I found a way to make it a little bit mine.
I am trying to tell myself that new wonders and mysteries await me and the tiny dogs as we walk into autumn and winter, and I am sure that they do. I can only imagine the sights to see on the crisp October mornings, when all the colors will riot and the world will feel most like my home. But I am sad too. Sad that the sweet beginning of a new part of my life is over. And I think it’s OK to marinate in that sadness just a little, and reflect on what it means.