Sunday 20 August 2006
They are a delight. When they sprawl on the lawn. When they let me read them poetry. When they talk about where they are going. When they talk about art. They are a delight. Their talk of change excites me.
They are lonely. They eat up my time. They plague me with stability. They are unable to fashion themselves into actors. I am their unwilling stomping ground.
These people are artists. They know what it is to determine an object. They know the consequence of interruption. They know the value of time applied to craft.
Ah, but I gain something from them. From every one and every time a voice impedes, I gain something so terrible and valuable I am willing to sit through their chatter. When I realize it, when I see what is happening, in a flash of desire, I regain my flame. The whip behind my creation.
As I am fetching their sticks, as I am presenting their newspaper rolls, I feel my hungers. I feel them the way an octopus feels the stones in its path. In shadow, perhaps absence, I feel the object of my desire and remember what it is to long. For a home. To long for a place beyond presence. The hunger grows and forms and strengthens me. I know longing, love its length.
Did such parks inhabit my youth? Such endless currents of energy? Such bouncing masses of parentage? Did this sort of frenzied circling take place in Pennsylvania?
My parents didn't walk for exercise. Nobody walked anywhere from what I remember, except when a major snowstorm was forecast. And then it was only half a mile to Marchwood Shopping Center for canned goods and batteries.
No, we never jogged. We were born before bran. We ate Hostess and Tater Tots. We rode bikes through thin woods. Played basketball across the creek. Did team sports in school. And we worked. We shoveled and weeded and mowed lawns. We cleaned houses and raked leaves. We walked dogs.
We bisected long states by car to see my father's family in Florida. We never once drove to, or through, a National Park. We were on a mission. We took the interstate. We picnicked at rest stops. We were privatized. Hypnotized by billboards.
I ran my first country loop with 2 teenage friends who reported to having done it before. I wore the only shoes I had, Docksiders. Flat boating shoes. It was suggested I wear sneakers next time. The next time took a few years. I was ready to go again. I signed up for a 5K. To train, I ran around our house 35 times. We lived in a 2-story starter home on a quarter acre lot. I no doubt amused our dog, but the ridiculous effort didn't pay off. During the race I alternated between hard running and walking. A gray-haired man kept catching up to me and finally suggested a slower, more regular pace. When I began running in college, I ran alone at midnight. I never passed a soul on our suburban streets. The runners in my hometown went to the Junior High School track to run circles after work. At maximum, there might have been 2 or 3 people sharing lanes.
Of the 3 parks in my memory, 2 were battlefields and 1 was a valley township, damned and filled for recreation. When I wasn't working, I spent summer days at Marsh Creek State Park, learning to sail a small boat I'd bought at a garage sale. I could lift it onto the roof of my car and sail from dirt shore to dirt shore. In the center, I would lower sails and drift for hours. Besides running, this was my escape. I so desperately wanted to. Escape. Even then. Marsh Creek was one of the first rippling rolls to offer this space.
Later, in a self-defeating manner, I brought my dog and friend, and experienced the horrors of captaining. It brings out the worst in a person. I became a hateful dictator in small quarters with instant reactions and urgently changing needs. I preferred to sail alone until I could manage both boat and visitor.
The Brandywine Battlefield was the prince of the parks. We devoted countless hours to rolling down its long grassy hills. Valley Forge, too, had mounds which we skied, sledded and rolled down. Rolling was what we most liked about parks in Pennsylvania. A park like Green Lake would have offered very little. Nonetheless, I find myself at Green Lake now, committed to a search for the human spirit, the home, the homeland. I cannot hope to roll down a knoll at Green Lake and find myself home. What can I hope?
There is a nice lull at 1pm. A chance to reflect. After a busy morning of visitors, an array of new faces and minds, I have a chance to reflect.
The way we enter and exit a ring without breaking a lip. The way we don't ask because we don't want to know. A few visitors claim to have done a thing or two to break the insular cones. "Sometimes, I try to gain a person's eye and smile." "I tried to talk to a woman once." But there's always this sense of danger that they will talk. "Real life," Ron says, "is complex. We are going to hear things we don't want to hear." What does modern socialization require? Simply being in sight of another human? In a world of visual culture, does communication stand for nothing?
Sandwich boards. Pillow cases. Human signs. Two Circlers now, independent of one another, have suggested visual responses to Leonardo's "Spanish Lessons" sign. Each wants to break out, to send a message to the others in the circle. To break the silence. I propose an intervention. An afternoon of pillow talk. An homage to Leonardo. I propose to offer a pillow case and fat markers to anyone willing to circle the lake with a sign on their chest. A pillow case with arm holes and the question of your choice. The thing you most want to ask the Circlers circling the lake. The thing you want to tell them.
The final disposition of the body of a loved one. A return home. Must we wait until the end? The very end?
"To eat a peach is to know a peach."