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Of Time and the Park

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Today was a singularly beautiful day in New York – a sparkling October day in mid-November, sunny, warm, a light breeze – and perfect for a two-hour walk  around the Drive in Central Park. (I used to run it in under an hour, but what the hell.)

I brought two books with me, but it was far too beautiful a day to stop at a bench and read; the day was made for walking. And after listening to a few minutes of Bartok on my iPhone, I realized that this too was superfluous. It was too beautiful outside even for music. I put the thing away.

As I ambled around the 6-mile loop, I wanted to hold the day in my arms like a lover and savor it, make it part of me. But we can get too carried away with remembering, with taking things with us as we move forward into the unknown. Far better to simply surrender to the moment than try to gift-wrap the experience for future delight.

Near 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, I saw a man in an electric wheelchair who looked like a young war veteran. As I passed, I said: “Some kind of day, eh?” He turned to me and just grinned.

Passing 95th Street, I watched a hawk making lazy circles in the sky.  Had I reached Oklahoma!? It was too far away for my iPhone camera to gift-wrap it.

I didn’t see any cows.

This morning before leaving, I had read Doris Lessing’s obituary in the newspaper. It quoted her wise advice in old age to younger writers: “Don’t imagine you’ll have it forever. Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go; it’s sliding away like water down a plug hole.”

Those words hit home. But I don’t feel that I should be home writing what I hope will be my best, but not my last, book. Walking, for me, is thinking. And I’m also getting exercise, in a park I love without reserve, in a city I love with deep reservations, on a day like few others, when life’s projects can wait.



Jeff Scheuer is a writer and critic based in New York. He is the author of two books about media and politics: The Big Picture: Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence (2007), and The Sound Bite Society: How Television Helps the Right and Hurts the Left (1999), named a Choice “Outstanding Academic Title.” Jeff is currently writing about critical thinking and the liberal arts.

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One Response to “Of Time and the Park”

  1. A very nice piece that takes a seemingly simple event or idea and makes it larger without trying too hard. Well done, Jeff

    First, after having been a runner by external and, later internal compulsion, I can say that walking is far superior. Runners always appear to be in great pain and there is a good reason for that…they ARE in pain! Walking is the natural state of the human species when not pursued by another human intent on harm or a predatory animal. Running hurts!

    A brisk walk is a healing exercise for the body and soul. One can increase the physical benefit by swinging the arms or picking up the pace. But at no point does this inflict the damage that running does. As a man over 45 years of age who has endured the torture of running, I can say that there is no “high” from running that beats a pleasant walk.

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