A Sabbath Afternoon in Central Park


After a sticky, grotty kind of weekend, Monday was clear, bright, and dry. And I’d promised a batch of galleys back to a publisher so I was deadlining away at the desk, feeling mildly sorry for myself. Then the e-mail came in from aforesaid publisher. I was being asked to do a routine task that no one had time to do in-house. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘But I can’t get the job back to you today, will tomorrow do?’ Turns out everyone would be out of the office tomorrow; would I mind delivering on Wednesday? So there was my Sabbath, thanks be to God!

I packed up the galleys, put the colored pencils away, slathered on the sunscreen, grabbed the glasses, and headed for the park at 2:30 on a Monday afternoon.

 It had to be one of the Top Twenty loveliest days of the year today. I headed into the park at the reservoir, which truly was shining too brightly in the sun to use the glasses on. There was danger of blinding. I ambled down the running path around the reservoir, watching a double-crested cormorant or two diving and popping up again, 20 seconds later.

 There was something intriguing singing by Cleopatra’s Needle, but I couldn’t get it. I’d seen a young mockingbird in the vicinity some days earlier and I wondered if this was the same guy.

By this time I remembered that I’d forgotten to eat lunch. My lightheadedness was reminding me. So I was forced–forced, mind you–to stop and buy a frozen Klondike Bar from the Pakistani vendor whose wagon stands at the entrance to The Ramble. I can’t tell you how delicious it tasted as I sat eating it on a nearby rock under a catalpa tree.

I took my usual 3-mile-or-so-circuit, through the Maintenance Meadow around The Ramble. It was glorious! The sun was shining golden through the green leaves of the trees. Only one slight flaw.

No birds.

I’m telling you, it was hard to find a robin!

But there will always be some treasure or other to find in Central Park. Always. And this afternoon it was a perfect bronzey green-brown bullfrog sitting on a rock by the Gill. It looked like one of those Japanese sculptures people buy for the gardens. He was a big guy! About the size of a salad plate. I looked at him quite a long time and told him I’d kiss him if he’d come over my way. But he was happy where he was.

 I wandered on, checking the usual birdy sites: Willow Rock, otherwise known as The Oven, Laupot’s Bridge, Mugger’s Woods (that’s right, we birders have a dry wit), the Tupelo Tree. Not a bird anywhere!

It was only as I was leaving the park, on my way out of the Maintenance Meadow that I was rewarded with an immature male ruby-throated hummingbird hovering in a stand of scarlet sage (which the park gardeners scatter through The Ramble to attract them). A hummingbird is always magic! A hummingbird never fails to make me hold my breath. How are they possible? And yet there they are.

But never for long.

I didn’t have a Sabbath yesterday. But today’s Second-day Sabbath afternoon in the park wasn’t bad.


7 Responses to “A Sabbath Afternoon in Central Park”

  1. Chris Says:

    Sometimes the heavenly powers shine on us and put a frozen treat in our hands — and what a mercy it is!!!

  2. Johan Says:

    Is a Klondike in the hand worth two birds in the bush?

    I hope your deadline day is going well.

  3. Cynthia Says:

    You see, Carol! You kept the Sabbath afternoon, and God kept you. And threw in a bullfrog to sweeten the deal.

  4. Quaker Pastor Says:

    Thank God for the opportunity to take Sabbath when one can get it!
    THe ramble is going on my list of places to visit when next in NYC!

  5. Carol Says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Chris, Cynthia, Johan, and QP, as we get started on this new conversation.

    Chris, I never knew Klondike Crunch bars could be so good! And that Klondike bar certainly was on Monday, Johan.

    It’s such a glorious beginning of September here in New York I may chuck it all and keep a Seventh-day morning Sabbath, Cynthia. Maybe Sabbaths don’t have to be 24 hours.

    And, QP, The Ramble must be seen to be believed. Many people are afraid of it because it seems like an isolated region of Central Park (isolation=potential danger in NYC), but it’s become a second home to me. There are almost always birders in it. There are others, too. It’s a meeting place for gay men. It’s fascinating to me to observe how the two very different communities share the space. They have their particular patches that we don’t bird in, and they leave us to ours. I suspect they’ve named their patches just as we’ve named ours–the Oven, the swampy pin oak, Evodia field–with names that have meaning only to us. But enough. The sun climbs, and confusing fall warblers wait.

  6. Anj Says:

    On our honeymoon, my first ‘real time’ to NYC, that wasn’t just fly in and fly out on business, Len and I got lost for hours in Central Park. A man playing his saxophone under the bridge that we danced to, the ramble, Strawberry Fields… It was glorious. A few weeks ago I was in there, early to a Doctor’s appointment and biding my time in the best waiting room I have ever seen. I watched the birds and I watched the people. The familiarity with which you speak of this park is amazing. I just wander without knowing a bit of where I am, hoping I can find my way back to the gate I come in.

  7. Mulch Wilmington de Says:

    Thanks for the advice. Will put it to work. Tom

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