Sunday, August 25, 2002

A Day in the Park

There’s so much I don’t know how to put it in words. Scribbling here in the car again, this time on the back of the envelope that held Soo’s paycheck which I just deposited. Nate is snoring behind me. We went to Las Piedras State Park, it’s turned into a stunning day after a morning rain accented by one flash of lightning and one clap of thunder. Soo was hailed on walking from car to office. Trying to potty train Nathan was trying me, driving me potty. So, I threw him in the car and, resisting the temptation to go all the way to Puyarim, went to the north end of the island. Nathan was almost asleep by the time we got there, but he perked up as he always does when we made that turn and Puget Sound opens up before us, “Wa-rr,” he says. Water, indeed.
There was a caterpillar inching along next to our parking space, it had avoided death twice, once at the hands of my car’s wheels and once at the hands of my son’s hands. The park ranger came over and asked us to keep an eye open for a key he had lost. No one else was there. We walked past the tire swing and the slides, over the driftwood to the rocky shore where we picked up smoothed pebbles and threw them into the lapping waves. Hundreds upon hundreds of multicolored stones rolled against each other with the motion of the water jiggling and jostling in a miniature quarry’s moist cacophony. Nathan stomped and splashed throwing handfuls of small stones, oblivious to the water rolling over his little boots and moistening the cuffs of his overalls. A man walking a dog named Dylan stopped by to let Nate get licked. Some people had pulled into the parking lot, a man and a woman lugged photography equipment from a van. Too much coffee for me forced us to dash to the bathroom. A man with two small children was playing on the jungle gym. His little girl was talkative and active, a younger boy, Kendall, sucked on the man’s empty coffee cup. We said nothing to each other except the requisite “Hellos” as Nathan and I watched them play. Nate was staring. He doesn’t know that it’s rude. I was staring even though I do. I wanted to ask the man if he was full-time or if today was out of the ordinary for him. Did he always watch the kids? Did he feel like I feel? A bit lost, a tad insecure, OK, hopelessly inadequate, an abject failure. He avoided my gaze. Was my desperation so apparent, so repellant? He helped his girl build a mound of gravel so she could reach the lowest bar on the jungle gym. Then she wanted to reach the next bar, but it was too high, explained the father. There wasn’t enough gravel to build a mound high enough so she could reach. “Kendall needs to take a nap,” he said (which is how I knew the boy’s name). “We have to go home.” So, after a normal amount of complaining and resistance she was trucked off to the minivan.
As I watched them leave, I heard an odd birdsong. Behind and high above them an eagle circled a tree, in which another eagle perched. I wanted to scream, “Look, look over there at those magnificent birds,” but I could not or would not. They drove off. I wanted to show the birds to the people taking pictures, but their subjects had shown up, casually ruggedly dressed old white men. Probably a photo shoot for the new Chamber of Commerce, I thought. Even Nate was oblivious, running after a crow and trying to replicate the actions of the little girl, reaching up to the jungle gym bar and pushing gravel around.
I stared dumbly at the eagles. We drove near them on the way out of the park. Massive birds, sitting regally on their wooden thrones. American icons, ignored.
Nathan fell asleep on the drive to the bank. I backed into a parking space across from the ATM, so I could see him in the car while I made the deposit.
The two deer that are driving Soo mad by eating all our foliage were lounging on our lawn as I pulled up our driveway. They scampered off, but not far. One has returned and is watching me now as I write.
I could have sworn I saw the eagles fly high overhead, riding the undercurrent of a thundercloud which has expanded to eclipse the sun momentarily. Patches of blue sky in the distance promise enough dryness to make the lawn mowable this afternoon, if Nathan’s sleep schedule obliges. He’s still snoring and I’m still scribbling, watching the surviving hummingbirds at play and wondering how long this will last. How long will he sleep? How long will the money hold out? How long before someone gives me a job? How long before all this useless beauty drives me mad? How long to sing this song? How long before you too are overwhelmed by this well watered world of wonder? Or is it illusion?

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