“Do you want to go to Green Lake today, girls, and run around the loop with me?”
“No, we’re watching A.N.T. farm. It’s our favorite episode.”
“But girls, the sun is out. Spring is here. The sky is filled with pink petals. It’s like a rhapsody outside…”
“Mom! Shh, we can’t hear. And Rap City? This is Ballard. Nobody sings or does cool stuff like rap here. Ballard is boring. That’s why we want to watch A.N.T. Farm.”
“Yeah, and if you’d stop talking, Mom, we could hear China Anne McClain sing. Besides, I thought you said you were going to Green Lake?”
“No, Juliet, she said she’s going to Green Lake which is like Rap City. You have to listen. Now shhh!”
Most afternoons, when Eli has crew practice, I drop him off at the small craft center then walk around Green Lake’s three-mile loop. It is a pleasant walk, if I am by myself or with a friend. If one or some of my kids come along, the three-mile walk morphs into an endless, meandering journey that ends with me silently vowing never to take them along again, for any reason.
Yet I break this silent rule over and over. Usually if any of the girls want to come I let them, because the whole point of going to Green Lake is for exercise and beauty, fresh air and time away from screens…all of which I think kids need more of these days. With them I forego any attempt at true ‘exercise’ and instead hold Juliet’s hand as she roller blades around the lake, or watch as Annalise bikes past while holding her cell phone to one ear, talking to kids down in California as she speeds by. Sometimes my friend Margie chatters with me as we saunter around, while every once in a blue moon, Damon takes a break from work to jog alongside me, as well.
But mostly it is me, on my own, walking around telling myself inwardly to ‘go faster’, while outwardly I long to slow down and photograph everyone who passes by. Because people are fascinating. I long to approach some of the more intriguing individuals, grab their hands gently within mine, then say, “So…tell me all about yourself!”
Which is another silent thought I haven’t acted on, yet. Instead I walk, or try to jog and push myself along the path. Lately I also take pictures with my phone. How else can one capture the ordinary and extraordinary that happen on the shores of Green Lake most every day?
On more than one occasion this winter I’ve seen two enormous bald eagles perched at the top of the tallest tree, eyeing us rain-soaked folk as if we were the exhibit, they the visitors. The trees whisper in the wind and speak messages of hope, sometimes, too.I’ve seen Sweet Stump stop joggers mid-step with its weekly adornment of fresh flowers. People and dogs run rampant through fields of clover and gather in groupings of every kind. There is little to do but marvel at the breadth and depth and sheer endurance of humanity and our harried companions.
Occasionally a show-stopper pauses my pace: the woman walking her purse-sized dog in a baby sling, like this onewhile simultaneously pushing a double stroller. Inside two curly-haired toddlers nibble California sushi rolls plucked from bento boxes with tiny chopsticks…all while Mama-Wowza walks her cosmopolitan tribe around the lake, narrating the scene into her blue tooth head set. (Sadly this was pre-Pearl, so no pic).
On any given day there are young people and old, fat and thin, the stunningly slow and dangerously fast. My worst encounters are The Spitters. Why, oh why, do people feel the need to spit as they pass in front of me? They spit with no warning, right onto the sidewalk, as if this is an acceptable thing to do. Spitting seems to be a cultural phenomenon at Green Lake, one I haven’t noticed anywhere else, and for the life of me I can’t understand why The Spitters don’t at least aim into the dirt at the side of the path? If I could wave a wand and do one thing to improve Green Lake it would be to attach artistic signs to random trees which read – BE A QUITTER, NOBODY LIKES A SPITTER!
My best encounters are the inspiring souls one chances upon, such as the young, leather-jacket clad girl walking alone, in a pouring rain, her head almost completely bald. A fresh scar stretched from ear to ear, right up and over the top of her head, pale white and seriously scary. Yet there she was, out in the rain, hands in her jacket, forging ahead, like everyone else. I longed to grab her hand and know the story, beg quietly, “Tell me all about yourself, please.”
But I didn’t stop, and I didn’t try to take her photo. I just remember her face, her sad, blue eyes, that scar like a headband that she will wear forever, and feel grateful that my head has not been sawed open like that, whatever the reason.
There is an old man who walks every single afternoon, whose one leg is shorter than the other, turned in a bit. Obviously he’s had some sort of atrophy on one side of his body, perhaps a stroke. Yet he struggles on, diligently walking around that lake every day that I am there and probably when I am not. Lurching forward, passing me by.
There is an old, tiny chinese couple, both of them no taller than my chest, who hold hands as they walk. They wear regular street clothes and seem quite unnoticeable, but then suddenly they simultaneously run full speed ahead for a short period of time. After a minute or so they stop, join hands again, then continue walking, heads bowed once more…she in polyester pants and him, a felt hat pulled low.
Often folks carry coffee cups as they wander by, or people eat, which I usually frown on. It seems to me that if you are out invigorating yourself on the shores of Green Lake, you shouldn’t be consuming calories simultaneously. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting off the sofa at all?
Yet, again, I’ve broken that unspoken rule as well. Not too long ago Damon and I walked from our house on Tuxsapawny Hill clear down to Green Lake, then around the Lake to shop at a shoe store, all before we started for home. But it was lunch time, after all, and I was famished, so we stopped and ordered a sandwich to go.
As we headed back around the lake, there I was, stuffing my face with an enormous ham and bacon melt. As if the universe knew I was breaking one of my silent sins, right then the worst possible scenario happened: Just as I took an enormous bite, the bacon – still whole and sizzling hot – slid out of my sandwich down into the dirt below.
Oh, the torment! I paused, horrified, yet Damon had no sympathy. He laughed and laughed. I contemplated picking that slab of bacon up, dusting it off and putting it back between the Gruyère cheese and ham where it belonged, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I left it there, a thick, long piece of still warm, still crisp bacon, lying untouched near the lapping lake on a sunny day.
And as Damon and I continued home, somewhat somberly now, I suddenly thought, “Some dog is going to have the best day of its life today, because of me! Here it will be, on a walk at Green Lake, in the warmth and sunshine… so already the dog has scored. And then he/she will be prancing along, nose to the ground, when – tail up, nose afire – could it be? Is that bacon I smell? That couldn’t possibly be…OMG…it’s bacon! Right here, on the doggie path, sizzling bacon, for me!”
That doggie delight scenario makes me happy, to think that I gave some creature the best surprise of its life. It’s an equally wondrous feeling to walk around Green Lake and find inspiration in people who don’t know me, won’t know me, probably don’t even see me pass by.
Last week I saw this:
Actually, that was my view from one vantage point behind a tree. From another it looked like this: an ordinary guy, fishing from the pier, a bit of a beer belly, just sitting, enjoying the solitude, reeling in his own kind of bacon. Then along comes this yoga girl, and what do you know…she starts practicing yoga poses, one after the next, right there on the pier next to the fisherman.
From behind the tree I watch as the fisherman rises, then starts to pace in small circles. Obviously he does not know which way to look now, or what to do. And yoga girl is oblivious to the discomfort she’s set down beside her, because she’s finding her bliss, communing with the sun, articulating her every corpuscle and core and belief.
Alas, my befuddled fisherman! Two small worlds collide, right there on Pier 1. Yet the moment is beautiful, too. Pearl and I watched it all, elated, as if we were private viewers at some sweet, dramatic, sunset vignette. Yet people passed by in droves. A spitter spat. Time ticked on.
Life does not stand still. It keeps moving whether we know where we are going or not. Little moments colored with emotion are seen through our own unique filter. People whom you’ll never talk to or know can influence you somehow. You can change the course of someone’s day, just by going out and being in the way.
Green Lake is where you’ll find me most afternoons, if you want to come tell me all about yourself. I’m the girl clutching a pearl, drifting, drifting, never knowing whether to hurry up or slow it down. Yet on I go, round and round, forward progress must be found….a lady adrift, just bubbling along, singing my own kind of singular song, right there on the shores of Green Lake…right here in
rhapsody Rap City.