Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections, Past and Present, 9-11

The reflecting pools may be beautiful and the new World Trade One building may be the tallest in the country.  I wish I could say I am impressed by these things or feel proud or safe or something, but I can't seem to feel anything.
On the contrary, I feel oddly detached from everything going on around me on this somber day of memorials and reflection.
Am I growing callous to the sufferings of my own kind?  Do I just not want to reflect back on the dark memories of 9-11?  Or, have I simply become so despaired and ashamed with some of the behaviors of my own species that I now seek to avoid and disconnect from them?
I'm not sure what is the truth.
I know I am very grieved with actions of my own species -- especially following the phone call from Caroline Greenleaf of Central Park Conservancy on Friday afternoon.
There is a sense of betrayal and broken faith.  Not just to me personally, but more importantly, the wildife in our parks and other people who took special joy particularly in the antics of the geese, when for brief moments in time, they were allowed to walk, swim and graze freely in Central Park.
Memories did come flooding back to me last night.
But, they weren't memories of planes crashing into buildings and people running in terror.  Rather, they were snippets of memories from different spaces in time from that awful and special day ten years ago......
Reluctantly, I took my dogs to Central Park last night.  I say, "reluctantly" because I no longer look forward to this activity as I once did.
I deliberately waited until it was past dark so as not to encounter thousands of runners, cyclists, tourists and others of my own kind.
Rather, I was seeking some semblance of peace and a kind of "getting away" from the news and people activities of the day.
Nevertheless, I found myself thinking back on 9-11 of ten years ago......
I recall that after a day of mind-numbing horrors and disbelief, downed phone lines, black and billowing clouds in the far distance drawing sharp line between blue sky and dark madness, and people walking around like shell-shocked zombies, each locked into his or her own personal and living nightmare, I took my dog, Tina to Central Park on that night, too.
I remember walking around aimlessly that evening, taking in the odd chemical or burning metal smell in the air.  It was something never smelled before and is actually difficult to describe.  But, a number of people wore face masks.
I found myself at the 79th Street "dog hill" in Central Park.
I wasn't sure if any people would be there that fateful night considering the near cataclysmic events of the day.  Most people, I imagined were home, glued to their TV sets awaiting whatever further bad news was about to occur.
But, surprisingly, there was a small group of people out with their dogs that night, most wearing the face masks as the air was so putrid and searing.
And for the first time all day, there was (at least for me) conversation.
But, it wasn't the normal light conversation about dogs, groomers or doggie day care.  Rather, it was, "Who could have done this and why?"   "What is going to happen now?"  "Who could believe this could happen in our country and our city?"
We all stood around as if caught, like mice, in some maze that we didn't know how to get out of.
Meanwhile, our dogs played and ran around as if nothing had happened -- indeed, the only semblance of "normalcy" that night.
New York City was in fact, in "lock down" that evening.  If anyone in fact, entertained ideas about escaping out of the city, there was no way to do so.
The absence of any planes flying overhead eerily reminded all of us of that.  There was a kind of foreboding silence in the warm, calm air punctuated only by our troubled conversation and the occasional barking of a dog.  I think we all realized we were suddenly encountering a brush with our own mortality.  Who knew what the rest of the night or the following days would bring?
But, at least for the moment, there was sense of camaraderie and solace in sharing and experiencing the same soul wrenching and mind-chilling event. 
Eventually, the people began to leave with their dogs and I too, left with mine.
But, I wasn't quite ready to return home.
Instead, I walked to the Reservoir.
And there, in the water were a group of mallards and geese, peacefully swimming around, an occasional "honk" or "quack" suddenly filling the ominous night air with sense of normalcy and stability.
It was the first time in that horrid and dreadful day -- a day that earlier, found me clutching my dog, Tina and several cats and saying, "Guys, this might be it..." -- that I found myself experiencing an ironic sense of peace and renewal.
"If the birds aren't afraid or nervous about anything why should I be?"
Had a bomb suddenly dropped out of the sky at that moment and blown me to bits, I would have died peacefully with my dog and the birds surrounding me affording a sense of calm and acceptance.
The next day the phone lines came back and I received a call from a concerned friend from California.
"I was worried about you with the terrible things happening in New York," Doug said attempting to sound calm.  "How are you doing?"
"I am OK," I replied. "As long as I see the ducks and geese swimming peacefully in Central Park, then everything is all right."
I am sure Doug thought that a bizarre and strange statement considering everything that was happening at that time.
But, it was an honest reply.
Fast forward ten years and once again walking my (now) two dogs in Central Park last night.
Yes, I thought about all these memories while looking over an empty Reservoir last night.
Certainly there are no geese in the Reservoir ten years later.  And if there were any ducks last night, I did not see them.
And so my dogs and I walked north to Harlem Meer.
Since there haven't been any geese to "harass" in more than three weeks now, it seems some of the mallards have cautiously returned to the meer.
There was a sizable and fairly lively population of ducks last night -- but of course, no geese.
After tossing some treats to Brad (the now lone, "widowed" domestic duck) and other ducks, I sat on a park bench with my two dogs to reflect for a while. 
More memories came back......
Canada geese gregariously prancing up to people. Men, women and children tossing treats to the geese.  Others taking photographs of the geese with cell phones or cameras. 
I recalled on one cold winter's day, a young man even "rapping" to the geese who seemed to indulge the singer with rapt attention.  (I took a video of that. Brad and Angelina were furiously swimming in the tiny pool of water to keep it open, while geese lazily stood around listening to the rap singer. .)
Other memories:   The swans, the three pekin ducks and of course, the beautiful and loyal Angelina. 
All of them gone now.
I wondered last night if the ducks I was watching  would also be chased from Harlem Meer one day?
Surely, some bureaucrat will eventually accuse them of "flouling" up the water or getting in the way of human activities, most notably, airliners or fishing.  Perhaps someone will complain that the ducks are too "noisy?"
Still, I believe that most of the people at Harlem Meer loved the geese and now cling to the ducks.  Why else would the park feel the need to put up, "Don't Feed The Wildlife" signs?
Did it ever occur to the Central Park Conservancy that the people feeding the geese and ducks were also those who loved and wanted them there?
Apparently not.  Either that or they just don't care that some people actually go to the park to enjoy and connect to a small bit of nature.  -- Especially at Harlem Meer.
Despite the late hour last night, there were a few people on the other side of the Meer tossing out some treats to the ducks.  This made me feel small measure of comfort and connection.
Apparently however, such people don't "count" in the park's considerations of human loves and activities.  On the contrary, geese, duck or pigeon lovers are scorned and unwelcomed in the park -- just like the geese.
But, speaking for myself, I will continue to fight for the geese until the day I die -- even if I am the only person in the country engaging in this "madness."
Because I so remember it was the geese and the ducks who ten years ago on this day, "saved my life" so to speak and engendered to me, the sense of hope and renewal that no skyscraper building or million dollar "reflecting pool" ever could. 
Today, I have not watched any of the 9-11 ceremonies nor do I plan to later.
Perhaps it simply is that I cannot bear talk of more grief and loss when experiencing myself loss of what ironically brought solace and peace ten years ago, but has now been mindlessly and ruthlessly taken and "chased" away.
If I feel anything at all on this mournful day, it is simply sense of mission.
Mission to forever fight and advocate for that which represents and brings healing, balance, stability, peace and order in a world otherwise dominated by the hand of human chaos and seemingly, never-ending "war" on other species and even our own kind.  -- PCA

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