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The Park in Inclement Weather

A light rain was beginning to come down as I arrived home from work yesterday evening. I dropped off my stuff, picked up my hat and raincoat and got all the way out of my workaday world by taking the few steps that get me to the shore of the lake.

The park is at its best in inclement weather--the birds and I have the whole place to ourselves. I wander, I pause, I look and look again. Body and mind explore unfamiliar twists and turns. Reverie.

The OED does not link the word etymologically to the French for to dream. Instead, to a different use of the French verb, this one meaning: "to revel, act or speak wildly." In English, reverie is "a state of joy or delight" (now obsolete or rare)--"wantonness," "wildness," "a state of anger or irritation," "violent or rude language," "noise, din"--all obsolete. What it comes down to now: "a fit of abstracted musing; a 'brown study' or day-dream; the fact, state, or condition of being lost in thought or engaged in musing."

There was something of the now obsolete meanings of the word still quite alive in my Prospect Park reverie. Engaged in musing, certainly--but with a piquant element of wantonness, wildness.

Thought is domesticated by the urban environment. In the park, I make a point of stepping off the paved pathways. I cross grassy hummocks, climb over the roots of trees, weave my own way along the shore of the lake. All week long I have traveled in straight lines and right angles on hard surfaces laid out and too often trod by others. The domestication of the body and the domestication of the mind are one. In my reverie, I go a little wild.

It's an easy enough freedom to assert with the park so close at hand, on a rainy day when there are no other walkers to keep me in some kind of line by the presence of their own conformity to or divagation from the designated paths.

In my reverie what I find is perspective in the graphic sense of the word. As I made my way around the lake, and out along the peninsula, following a course I had never followed before, I stopped often to look in all directions--not just the ground ahead, but the ground I had already covered. From the most extreme point of the peninsula I looked back at my own neighborhood shore and found the tree where I like to sit at the end of the day, nearly invisibly from this vantage point, I can see. The storm was travelling fast, and the wind on the lake was strong and rising. The absurd tour boat, its bow into the wind, strained at its mooring and this little lake in the middle of the city was become a wild place. Almost invisible under the trees, and making only the most fleeting appearance in their history, and yet I was somehow in touch with an immensity, an enduring and living immensity: the object of, but never subject to, human efforts to describe.

Such a relief to be able to find the uncontainable world so close at hand. Such a tremendous relief to put the human back into scale--all of the fuss and bother, torture and mayhem, down to size and blown hard by a wind that wraps its way around the universe and will not ever cease.