At the Stewart Park Promontory
- Temperature: 79 degrees
- Wind: 2 - 11 MPH
- Clouds: Few clouds
- Canada geese
- Red-winged blackbirds
- Northern water snake
- Walkers and runners
- Moms and kids at the playground
- Taxi driver looking around with binoculars
- Skinny white guy looking for something by a secluded bench
- Show-off Harley bikers
For the first time this year, I wore shorts and a t-shirt. I strolled through the sun along the Promontory loop and stopped by the first bench. What to photograph today? Water at the edge of the mossy bank. The spiraling tree trunk of an old fallen willow. A skinny young man twisting the cap of a bottle he held. His arrival at the bench where I stood was unexpected. He seemed equally surprised to see me. He sauntered past, and I covertly noted the piercings and white tank top t-shirt. I got the feeling that he wanted to be right where I was standing, and that I was in the way. His eyes scanned the ground all around, clearly looking for something. I took a few more pictures as he wandered away, then came back to the bench.
"What you takin' pictures of?" He asked.
"Oh just birds, the water. Whatever." I replied. This skinny punk was so out of place in this little naturey place, his presence didn't quite compute. I didn't know what to say. I scanned the ground too, thinking he was looking for a drug drop-off. Was it fear I felt of such a man? Was it concern for his perhaps misguided youth?
He shrugged. I kept my eyes down and slowly walked away, while he stepped toward the bench. A couple of minutes later, I saw the back of him, leaving the Promontory, off to the rest of his life.
About thirty feet past the bench, I saw another movement. A gray tail sliding into the leaves next to the trail. This time it was definitely a thrill of fear zipping through me. I watched him, curious about his plan. His uniformly gray body had faint lighter rings around it. I knew he was not poisonous, but also not someone I really wanted to tangle with. But I stepped into the bushes to get a better look.
Then he turned toward me, and I leap backward. I was, again, right where someone else wanted to be. When I backed away, he slid past and toward a lower bank. Then without another glance, he dropped into the water and sped away, surprising me with his speed, off to the rest of his life.
What a strange juxtaposition of human and animal at the Promontory. In winter there was just me and the ice, the gulls, the geese. Now, the warmth and light had drawn out everything from punks to snakes. Mrs. Goose was still on her nest, eyeing me warily. Songbirds jumped from branch to branch in the trees. The cormorants were back. As were the sunbathers. And the tourists. People with binoculars moved around, looking up at the skies, and the insects followed them.
There is not one without the other. I don't mean punks and snakes. I mean human and wild. We are here, together. This little Stewart Park is just a microcosm of the rest of the world. A jumble of creatures living their lives, basking in the sun, wanting to enjoy a warm day.