Central Park Love Song

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i love central park. as a very young person, i missed the spiritual lesson in the perennial beauty of blooming and dying flowers.

i've a long view from my living room of central park treetops to harlem. falcons glide on wind currents at my windows. right now, fat leafy treetops look like bridal bouquets. winters, i stare at naked branches edged with snow-and posed like dancers. mornings, i smile as sunrises slowly color my white living room with intensifying pink light. when gray clouds settle down on distant trees, i photograph what look like mountains touching the sky.

a few years ago, on the advice of my former editor victoria wilson at knopf, i hired a man to paint my floors a transparent white that reflects the white sky, making guests feel they're walking on sky. truly i'm blessed.

sometimes i think, oh, i could move away, but then i start dreaming about the view in my big, drafty old casement windows.

i love walking the park. i immediately start breathing deeply. the air is suddenly so fresh and plants and trees make my lungs feel like i'm consuming something sweet and clean and good.

the background music in the park knocks me out. i always drop $1 or $5 into a hat or a guitar case. one fiddler stopped playing cajun music to tell me in a rush that he'd retired at 45, made his own violin and taught himself to play. he made the violin backwards-so he bows with the wrong hand-but he's such a happy man.

i love the saxophone player whose tearful echoes under a bridge accompany my route to the waterfalls. he plays "? it's no good unless he loves you all the way?" he bobs his head to thank me for my $5. i thank him. his background score makes my two-mile walk a fantasy.

i see a cardinal and turtles on a rock at the lake in front of the plaza. i love the fat raccoon-a big star. today he peers from a hole in a tree 20-feet high while crowds photograph his adorable face. it's his best angle-his ungainly body and short legs hidden inside the tree trunk.

i head to the waterfall at the west side of the lake. the road is landscaped like an expensive estate. i marvel at the placement of trees, bushes and vines. it feels like money. a black bicyclist and i stare at the waterfall in holy silence. then he says, "i've been riding to this spot every day for 10 years." he watched them build the splashing waterfall and points out a pipe, barely visible between two soaked rocks.

the waterfall's a miracle. the children playing in the first falling leaves are miracles. not driving to my former country house for two hours in order to breathe clean, fresh air is the best miracle. sometimes i think i live in the luckiest spot-a shared rent-stabilized apartment with acres of central park and big sky as décor. life can be a bitch, but a rent-stabilized apartment overlooking the park is joy. n


susan braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, family circle: the boudins and the aristocracy of the left, was nominated for a pulitzer by publisher alfred knopf.

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