Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Park & Introspection...

My park. Well, it isn’t really “my park”, but I think of it as that when I visit there. I first discovered it on one of my drives around the island. It is mostly residential here, and the park sits just opposite some shore-side homes. The road that runs around the periphery of the island I live on is a small two-lane asphalt road, and the entrance into the park’s small sandy lot is accessible on one of the curvier portions.

I hadn’t been in Savannah long, when the urge to venture out on some exploratory missions of the island hit me. At the time I didn’t have wheels of my own, so Glenn gave me the use of his truck. I hadn’t had much experience driving a vehicle that had seats that were relatively high-up, as all of the cars I have owned sat much lower to the ground. Its handling was a bit more ‘bouncy’ than I was used to, but it was easy to drive. The added height gave a whole new perspective of what I could see, and how I saw it.

I was driving along the island road, noticing far more than I would have in a car. As I wove back and forth with the bends in the road, the park was suddenly there. It sat quietly and dimly under a canopy of tree limbs. The parking area was empty. No one was sliding, or swinging. It was vacant.

I have mentioned in earlier posts about how I wish I had discovered how much I enjoy photography years ago. We creative types have a great need to be creative, to feel those creative juices flow. Over the last few years, photography has filled that need for me. I discovered what I call my “fourth eye”…the world through a camera lens. I didn’t have the camera with me at that moment. That drive was a way for me to get my bearings on my new surroundings. As I said…an exploratory mission. I slowed as I passed the park, sipping on my Caramel Iced Coffee from Mickey D’s (it’s interesting what subtle things we remember), and I pondered. Finish my drive and move on to something else, or head back to the condo for the camera and return to the park? My decision was easy.

That first visit was sublime in a beautifully rumpled, unkempt way. Before I even exited the car, I could tell that the wide tree filled space was a victim of some neglect. No groundskeeper worked on clearing limbs, or whacking weeds. On the whole, the benches, tables, and stationary grills seemed to be in relatively usable condition. There were some casualties here and there, but with some attention they could be put to use again. Then there were the trees.  The majestic tall trees that spread their gnarled limbs overhead. The various green hues of leaves, ferns, and moss, creating a roof filled with small haphazardly placed punctures that regulated the number of sun rays that angled down. There was an intense sense of peace and calm. It also felt of isolation. However, it wasn’t an off-putting isolation. The permeating vibe placed itself around me, and soothed me. It was a place for introspection, and thought. A place for deep thought (if that’s what was needed), without the added madness of stress and uncertainty. A neutral zone where one could collect their thoughts, and mull on them in a constructive way. It was also a place for a mind clearing. A spot to escape the day to day stresses, and just “be”.

I have revisited ‘my park’ a number of times since then. My most recent visit was this past Saturday. The visit before that was back during colder months, so the time was more than ripe. This time I grabbed the tripod. I often mention in posts that contain my photographs that I prefer to leave the flash off whenever possible, so that I can take advantage of the natural light. There is an inherent mood to flash-less photos that I dig. A frequent requirement of photography sans flash is an ability to hold as still as possible, so that your picture isn’t blurry to the point of being unusable. Sometimes a blurry photo can work from an artistic perspective, but that’s not what I was going for on Saturday. Not that I was on any type of mission. I just planned to do what I usually do…snap a picture of whatever presented itself.

As I have always gone to the park on a week day, I wasn’t sure what I would find during a weekend. Maybe there would actually be people there? I have only encountered ‘others’ there once before. A mother and daughter, and their dog. They spent the entirety of their visit by the jungle gym and swings. I wandered around the rest of the park where the dormant picnic areas are. Their laughter would occasionally filter back to me, along with the requisite “Mommy, watch!” The dog crunched by me a couple of times on the dry leaves and twigs, regarding me warily the first time…not bothering to look at me the second. Their presence had not been enough to ruin my time in the neutral zone. I snapped my pictures, sipped the coffee I had brought with me, and mulled over a few things. It was nice. It’s always nice. I always leave there with at least a small nugget of Zen.

Saturday there were people there. A man and woman who I assume were mother and father to at least one of the two small children playing on the slide. Interestingly enough, they were accompanied by a dog, too. The adults were chatting away, loudly enough to hear the presence of voices, but not to hear their discussion. Not that I was interested to know what they talked about. The kids were a bit cacophonous, but it is a playground. Noisy kids are a regular fixture of most playgrounds. The adults would cast a look at me here and there as I mounted the camera on the tripod, and made sure I had replacement batteries in my pocket along with my car keys (can’t forget those). I got myself in order, grabbed the tripod, and entered the park.

I exchanged a smile and nod with the grown-ups, as I passed by. I then just kind of tuned them out. The kid friendly play area was by the parking lot, but it was the rest of the park that I was interested in. It was just me and the park after that. For the most part the light level was dim, but then it always is. The variety of tall and old trees formed a living cathedral ceiling overhead. The ground below has an interesting texture. I keep meaning to look up whatever information I can find on soil content in areas like that. The untidy surface of dead leaves, pine needles, and other detritus cast off by the trees and other flora, covered soft earth. I don’t mean sticky soft earth, like mud. It has more of a downy quality. Springy even. Like walking across a soft mattress. Rather odd, but it kind of adds to the vibe of the place. A vibe that says I’m stepping away from the ‘usual’ for a much needed break.

It was a hot day. Not that it was out of the ordinary. Hot and humid. Gotta love the South. That’s where the leafy ceiling came into play, effectively blocking the heat of the Sun’s rays for the most part. A few times I ventured closer to the abundantly thick collection of plants and weeds around the edge of the park, looking for things to photograph. Those trips to the edge didn’t last as that was the mosquito zone. For the most part, I would spend the rest of my visit in the park’s heart. This visit the trees were my main focus. I have always loved trees, and the trees there are beautiful. The majority of my photos are of the trees. Just about every tree you come across in Savannah is going to be covered with Spanish moss. (Note: Although called “Spanish Moss”, it is actually a parasitic air plant and not a ‘moss’ at all.) The ‘Moss’ adds to the metaphysical energy that seems to permeate this town. The park is no different.

I snapped pictures while I engaged in some introspection. I am under a considerable amount of stress.  Stress that I have had for a long time now. Over the last few months I have been working on a personal “shift”. A change in the way I process things. Trying to deal with things on a more conscious level, so that I can feel some of my strength again. My chief worries are like those of many people. Money, and trying to find work being a couple. Then there is the stress of not feeling grounded, of not feeling sure footed on mental and emotional levels. I veered off into uncharted territory a while ago. For me, anyway. Into a space of feeling out of the loop from…everything. By nature I am a very social person yet I have come to reside in a space of isolation, brought on by feeling out of personal control. I have been on a sort of mental and emotional journey back to ‘me’. In the midst of inner turmoil, I had asked questions. How can I find myself again? Where can I find my inner strength? The answer isn’t really one that can be articulated, so much as felt. It has to do with one’s perspective. Perspective on how we can best be that person we know we are, and that we want to be. Some people are on that personal quest for most of their lives. For me I seek to be reacquainted with that person. To bring them back to the fore.

I went on to snap a bunch of photos before the heat started to get the better of me. Even in the comforting shade the heat was moist and heavy. My time in the park was quite productive. I was able to spend some quality time with my thoughts in a constructive and enlightening way. Add the creative process of photography into the mix, and things took on a sort of meditative state.

On my walk back to the car, the adults and I exchanged another acknowledging smile as I passed. The dog sat next to a tree, his eyes drooping lazily in the heat. He regarded me lethargically and blew out a sigh.

As I shifted the car into reverse, I looked out at the tree filled lot. It had been a productive visit on a number of levels. It was a visit that I needed.

I won’t wait so long for the next one.

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