Two Sundays ago, I had gone to sleep the night before at some ridiculous hour approaching dawn as I so often do on Fridays and Saturdays—which really is a terrible habit, but time just seems to disappear from me those nights—and I awakened in the early afternoon to slanted beams of sunshine that lit the white walls of my room with long angular planes of light. It was a welcome change, as the days preceding had been overcast and wet.
I left the house soon after with vague plans to spend the day in a nearby café several blocks away, but the weather was so warm and golden that I turned right on 10th instead of going straight, and found myself in Prospect Park. I walked along a dirt path that cut and curved through the park grounds, keeping under the expansive stretches of shade cast by small scattered groves tall and rich with foliage, and after a while, stepped off the path and into the grass and walked until I came across a small hill, where I kicked off my sandals and sat down. I decided to spend the afternoon there, in the generous shade of an enormous tree whose long outstretched branches sank with the weight of its thousands of leaves that rippled and shimmered in the sun like millions of little feathers. I had brought along three books to read, but they lay on their backs unopened for the better half of the next hour, because the time still felt young to me, and the day was simply too glorious to be set aside and ignored. And so I sat under that blue, blue sky and breathed in the smells of the grass, cool and slightly damp beneath my hands, and felt the warmth of the sun on my arms and legs; two kites were swooping and soaring and diving high up in the sky like brightly colored birds, and couples lay close beside each other on their stomachs and on their backs, exchanging conversation and smiles, and I remember looking all around me and thinking then that the day was perfect.
I went to the park again this past Sunday, and this time I brought along a green bed sheet that I found folded away in my closet. As it turned out, the sheet was a luxury to have, all spread out over the grass just so, clean and inviting; I stretched myself out on it, feeling a little like a dog I had seen earlier in the park who had been rolling around and round on his back in the grass. It was a beautifully warm day, warmer still than last Sunday, and although I was wearing only a light dress, it was warm even in the shade of that old tree. I lay there for a long time looking at the layers of leaves loosely dipping and swaying overhead and at the changing patterns they made against the sky, and every once in a while, the sun would peek through a sliver or gap of blue in between the green, and my eyes would fill with a blinding white light that burst forth in long streaks and streams—but only for a second, and then a breeze would come to pass as it always did, and everything would rearrange itself once more. I saw a swirl of clouds that looked like a frail dragon, and then I ate a sandwich, and I read a book by Marilynne Robinson, which felt fitting, as it was Sunday, and her writing makes me feel just about as close to religion and to God as anything else I have so far experienced.
I left the park and started walking home quite late, and I was glad that it is far enough along now into spring that the air is still warm and the neighborhoods are still light even in the early evening—though the light had become the dusty glow of orange and gold that belongs to those last few minutes of daylight, and would soon hush to the indistinct shade of indigo that drapes itself over everything, shrouding the familiar, and transforming the sharp world, for just a little while, into something dreamy and unfocused. I was walking slowly, as I was in no rush and the street was pretty, and then somewhere up within the trees to my right I heard a sound that my memory recognized before my ears did. It was a turtle dove. The turtle dove’s call consists of five notes, and its voice sounds almost like an owl’s, except the turtle dove’s tones are softer and slower, not as deep, and more solemn—almost melancholy, which is probably why they are also known as Mourning Doves. I used to hear them all the time in California on lazy, quiet afternoons, and whenever I happened to catch in the air the first quick note of their song, an ear would instinctively wait to hear what I knew would follow, like an old familiar melody from childhood.
I stopped walking and stood there awhile. A little girl was sitting on the steps of a stoop a few houses down, drawing on the ground with a piece of blue chalk, and I don’t know if it was the sight of her playing in her sundress with her hair tied up in a messy little ponytail, or if it was the way the turtle doves were still singing in the trees just like I remember they would sing when I was small and spry and ran wild in the backyard of my old house in Berkeley, but I felt suddenly like I was home, and the world seemed to open up then, and envelop me right there in the middle of that sidewalk.