Saturday, May 30, 2009

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou, American poet, b.1928


When the wheels get stuck I need a robust bout of swift walking until I have pushed the creative gear in forward motion again. When that happens, I head for the reservoir in Central Park. It’s been around for a while. Construction on the reservoir was completed by 1862. Officially named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in 1994, it is surrounded by a well-tended running path. After a good rainy downpour Conservancy employees are on the track, rolling the excess from the path. I’m lucky enough to live so close to this patch of positive ions that in a few moments I am circling the watery duck haven and jogging the body and the mind.

Inadvertently memory is jogged as well. I am once again a majorette from blue-collar Astoria in a short red skirt, white satin blouse and gold cummerbund, high stepping in white cowboy boots and twirling my baton ahead of my dad’s drum and bugle corps, The Saints, in one of many parades we marched in Manhattan. We majorettes were known as The Angels. I know, I know. Project girls? Not even close. I remember thinking as we marched under the windows of the no doubt affluent and irritated Fifth Avenue residents that someday I would live near this park. And I do.

Earlier in the day I had joined the queue-with-no-end-in-sight at the post office. On my way I passed the Starbucks on Third Avenue, scene of a pipe bomb explosion the night before. Already the shattered storefront windows had been replaced. The FBI was parked outside, presumably on the lookout for political terrorists. Frankly I think blame might just as easily be laid on any one of their over-caffeinated customers. Have you ever tried that stuff? Better to take a caffeine addiction downtown to the Mud Spot—either the charming hippy throwback café on East 9th Street or wherever their bright orange truck is parked. Look for the peace flag on the side of the truck parked at Astor Place and join the like-minded queue. Really. Raise the two-finger salute for peace and drink their coffee.

Prepared for the interminable wait at the post office, I had my head buried in Virginia Woolf’s novel “Night and Day” until a friend in the neighborhood quietly interrupted me. John is a soft-spoken Englishman who follows Zen Buddhism and birds. I have been invited to the Chogye International Zen Center and am always pleasantly surprised to be greeted there by John, transformed from street clothes into the traditional robes of the teacher. He looked rather tired that morning, explained by a dawn bird walk in Central Park. He had also just returned from Michigan on a successful quest to see one of the rarest birds in the world, Kirkland’s Warbler. Usually the winged warblers will be found wintering like some humans in the Bahamas. Then they (the birds not the humans) fly off to Michigan, not for the newest automobile off the assembly lines (for as long as that lasts in the U.S.) but to nest in the young branches of Jack Pines. The return of the tiny bird’s gurgle is celebrated in Roscommon Michigan with its own Warbler Parade!

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