Observances in the Gardens

Start in the sensory garden. The water isn’t running in the fountain so it’s unusually quiet here. I should be touching and smelling and listening but I’m a bit inside myself so I’m not doing any of that. Just past is something new. The sign says it’s the serenity garden. It’s a scattering of low polished granite benches sized for one roughly scattered around a small obelisk in a little secluded lawn . I could use some serenity so I sit and close my eyes for a few minutes and actually do start to smell some of the flowers around me and feel the light breeze and sunlight. Down the hill is the giant fountain but I’m not in a concrete sort of mood so I skirt wide of that and cross the street into the azaleas. They aren’t blooming but they are tall and give little pockets of seclusion as I pass through. A short set of stone steps takes me onto the river path. The river seems wide today which doesn’t make sense because it’s the same width as it was yesterday but I’m not going to debate with myself over it. It can just be wide. Just up the path a pair of cherry trees stretch out over the water, filtering the blue sky through their white blooms. A little further on, on the other bank, a big tree (oak or hickory or one of those) has had it’s riverside roots undermined and leans out across the dark water like it’s trying to get to my side. I can hear and see the old waterwheel turning endlessly. It works but it doesn’t work for any purpose anymore, if it ever did. It still keeps churning around and bringing a steady stream of water up and then right back down into the river.

I’m on the boardwalk now. Just as I head into the trees and leave the cultivation behind I notice a parks service birdhouse on the other shore. It’s heavy duty and the post is surrounded by an aluminum critter shield. It has the number six crudely carved in it and I don’t know what kind of bird it’s for. I think I like the boardwalk best. It’s quiet in the trees. The views and sounds are restricted to the immediate. Here and there little wooden peninsulas jut off. Most of them, at least on the first stretch, have people down on their ends. Some of the people are couples but at least one has a fisherman with a couple of poles.

Around the bend I see some of the winter damage. A few small trees and some very large limbs have come down in some storm or other. Some of them are new and have crushed undergrowth and some are older and the undergrowth has overgrown. There are also two fresh stumps where someone from the parks service has recently taken down trees with a chainsaw.

I’ve almost caught up to the old couple ahead so I slow down. I don’t feel like other people and I don’t want to pass anyone. The old man has a white beard and a wide brimmed panama hat. He makes me think that maybe Hemmingway finally learned to relax after death. He’s carrying a camera with a foot long lens and an expensive looking tripod so I guess the two of them are on photo safari. It’s what a mellow Hemmingway would do I guess.

I keep passing couples in the various nooks, all looking for a little privacy and probably finding less than they hoped because of the other couples and people like me. They seem to me to be trying to radiate “We’re all alone” but the signal is loud enough to make me pay more attention than I want to.

I pass a few pools of stagnant water that have been caught away from the river by dry land as I pass out of the trees and back toward the road. On this side the traffic is rapid and noisy and as soon as I can I turn back down the river path heading back into the Gardens. I can see new construction on some of the handrails. The wood is new and the work is a bit haphazard. I guess that’s what you get when you pay by the hour for labor in a secluded setting. Small jobs take a long time to medium effect.

The duck ponds are now on the right and the iron children are overseeing the geese. The geese are in full voice and a mom and two kids watch from the far side. The kids seem half fascinated and half terrified of the big noisy birds. The mom just laughs.

I make it back to the waterwheel from the other side and turn away from the river onto the other boardwalk. The wood thumps quietly and pleasantly under my feet. The rose gardens are on the left. I’ve never much liked the regimented order of the rose bushes but I do like the Iron Lady in the middle. I also like the bushy topped pergola right in the center. It’s like the roses are having a bad hair day.

Back across the street I make my way up the hill. I used to run this hill all the time but I quickly remember that I don’t like hills as much as when I had two functioning knees. Getting to the top still makes me happy.


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