Sunday, August 23, 2009

Playground Rainbow

On the Jacob K. Javitz playground, just behind the swingset, stands a mural. It is painted on a brick wall and depicts children of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They jump, run, and slide along a rainbow that dominates the center of the scene. On the left, underneath the rainbow, the mural reads "Respect each other." Further down the rainbow, the right side reads, "Respect yourself." If the messages are subliminal, I have no objection to their content. On the opposite side of the playground, children run with glee in the cooling spray of the fountains, which have been in constant use for weeks. A few days ago, I discovered a man holding his dog over the water. The dog tolerated the bath without squirming, his face thankful for the relief from the heat. Tomorrow, I will try the same trick on my own beloved Pooch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


The trees in Fort Tryon have come alive with sound. The constant round-and-round rattle of cicadas fills the ears, like thousands of maracas shaken by phantom mariachis who have taken up residence in the trees. The cicadas fill the trees in the Linden Terrace, and accompany me while I silently watch the sky burn with sunset. The cicadas muffle the whispered Russian and crescendos of Spanish from others enjoying the view. They form a constant backdrop to the drama of nature, a reminder that summer's abundance has neared its zenith. At the entrance to the park, a dead cicada lay on the ground, its fairy wings stretched delicate and vulnerable beneath it. I gathered the insect in leaves and brought it home, careful not to damage its wings. My nephew appreciates such creatures, and I saved it for him. It felt like I was saving summer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dog Park

Today at the dog park there were at least twenty dogs: big, bold, heavyset mutts; small nervous, yippy Yorkshire mixes; a skeletal, inbred miniature greyhound; and my own Poochini, who defies classification. The dogs chased each other in packs, joyous in their simple existence. It occurred to me that dogs are like men. Or men are like dogs. In any case, they are very similar. The lives of both revolve around running in packs, eating, and (especially) humping. Even if occasionally they hump in the wrong direction-- like one of the dogs today who tried to hump another's head.


Today while I walked in the Heather Garden I stopped dead in my tracks. On the butterfly bush (in full blossom) sat the first Monarch of the season. I have been on the look out for weeks for Monarchs. Amidst the white moths, the buttery yellow ones, and the black and blue butterflies that have recently increased in number, I have had hopes of spotting a Monarch. But they have remained elusive this summer. Today's Monarch paused on a leaf, its outstretched wings moving almost imperceptibly in the breeze. I breathed shallowly for fear of scaring it away. The early evening sun shone on its orange and black window panes like stained glass from a European cathedral. But no amount of effort on our part can contain the beauty of nature. It flitted away on the breeze like the effervescence of early love. I still enjoy the memory of its beauty.

Rose Man

The Rose Man has disappeared from the corner of W178th and Ft. Washington. It happened during winter, when the icy winds blustered up, down, and around the streets of Washington Heights. Gone is the shopping cart that used to greet me with a rainbow of flowers on Friday afternoons. Gone are the long stemmed roses that he carefully chose with a flourish and a smile. Gone are his cheerful eyes that used to meet mine when he handed over the flowers. A different Rose Man has taken his place. He stands in front of the farmacia latina at W181st St. He also has a shopping cart. But in his cart roses hide amidst carnations. These roses are short-stemmed, pre-wrapped in cellophane with sprays of baby's breath and insignificant fern leaves. He hands over the roses with a smile, but quickly looks down to count the money. Business is business. I miss the old Rose Man.