Today I went for a walk with my dog in Prospect Park. I do this a lot, probably two-four times a week. In fact, I often wonder how my friends without dogs survive in Gotham without a daily dose of green in their eyes. I go all year round, in all kinds of weather. I do it because I am a sucker and my dog has those eyes called “puppy dog” for a reason.
But there are really no days I don’t love the park. And in fact rainy ones are my favorites. No one in New York goes to the park during the rain, so I am virtually alone with my dog and the squirrels…and my cell phone. I usually wear several layers to keep out the wet chill, and a hood so I can still chat to anyone available to talk without damaging the fragile Apple technology.
Today, it wasn’t raining. This summer’s inevitable drought not withstanding, it was absolutely gorgeous. The weather was the kind of perfect where the air just sits softly on your skin. It is light and buoyant. It even smells good. There is neither the bite of the cold nor the pressure of heat, leaving only whatever that feeling is that people who enjoy nudist colonies probably experience whenever they are naked and conducting business or naked and playing croquet, or naked and eating a baloney sandwich.
We entered at the 2nd St. entrance near the children’s playground with all the water toys. The dog, already propelling us full steam ahead on her mission to get to the dog pond, didn’t notice or didn’t care that I had started frantically digging around in my pockets for my cell phone. In fact, I checked each pocket multiple times as if my right ass-pocket on my cheap jeans might have somehow regurgitated the iphone from deep inside it’s unlimited soul while I was feeling around in one of the front pockets. It was all as if frantic digging might reveal a “hidden” pocket.
I turned to walk back to the car. But when I got there and fumbled around in every nook and cranny of that suddenly enormous 2001 Jetta, something became abundantly clear: The phone was not with me. I had a very real choice to make. I could either take my whining dog to the dog pond and let her swim, walking the mile there and back in terrifying silence, or I could pack her up, drive home, get the phone and come back.
Against my better judgement, because my dog clearly knows how to break out the Imperious Curse when she has to, we strode back into that suddenly silent, and certainly pathologically boring afternoon, phone-less.
It was tough, but I put one foot in front of the other and marched onward. I reminded myself that I had quit smoking, passed several difficult college exams, and made it through a liver biopsy, totally awake, without anesthesia. If I survived each of those torments, this too would pass.
The trees were at every possible stage of bloom. Some were explosions of pink and white. Others were already confidently green. Still others had willowy branches with the tiniest white puffs of cotton visible at their joints. Oddly, I noticed them all.
I was led (and by led, I mean dragged) down each wooded pathway until it opened up onto the great lawn and curved around a group of mothers doing some uniform exercises with babies in strollers. Normally I would have been engaged in a serious game of Words With Friends, but instead I paused as this row of hipster mom’s hoisted their crying offspring above their heads to the encouraging words of a perfectly toned, childless trainer standing before them rhythmically chanting, “And-three-and-two, and-now-to-the-left, and-right, and-left, and-right.” The dog panted hungrily to get the pond, but I had to watch as a lady in an ironic Metallica t-shirt with a French manicure (which couldn’t be less ironic) nearly gave her loveable baby whiplash on one of the final “and-lefts” before fluidly dropping him into his stroller, releasing the breaks and line-driving it up the hill, and-back, and-up, and-back.
I let the dog free to run the last fifteen feet to her beloved pond.
Impulsively, I did another pocket scan for my magic phone. Then stood there with no way to chat with my sister, or distract myself with a meditative game of Scramble. Instead I threw the tennis ball for Dee Dee, watching her swim to get it and then swim back wheezing with satisfaction. I interacted with the toddler who, with his cute, French speaking stay-at-home dad, tossed the ball for her a few times. I found creative ways to throw the ball, diagonally to the left corner fence so that it gave Dee Dee the maximum swim distance and therefore the best overall swim experience. I listened to the birds, the distant voice of the trainer and her row of mothers, and the ooh-ing and awe-ing of Brooklyn nannies and their charges over my little brown dog diving heroically after each and every ball, unhampered by the distractions of my omnipresent hand-computer.
Then something truly magical happened: Instead of running headlong back home to get back online, reconnect and reach out and touch someone I normally “touched” several times a day, I called my dog out of the water, attached her leash, and went for a walk. It was a long walk, into the back-most recesses of one of the world’s greatest urban parks.
We walked down the path to the willow pond that was designed in 1867 by Olmstead and Vaux after they had completed what is in my biased opinion, the less glorious Central Park across the river. We moseyed into one of their famed archways through which the scenescape made a photo-perfect image. We strolled together down to the willow pond, noticing again how every path kept the secret of that pond intentionally hidden until you turned the last corner and suddenly there it was, perfect in any season, but in spring profound in its yellow, pink, and white blossoms. We curled back up the stone steps running beneath a tunnel of trees to the three empty fountains, Flatbush Avenue’s greatest secret neighbor, encased by their thick carpets of grass and the surprising and very unBrooklyn-like solitude.
Instead of checking my text messages or looking something up on the internet, I listened to the birds. As my dog and I went for a walk today, there was nothing but the air, sublime on my skin and the smell of spring everywhere.