The dog and I enter the park the same way every day and we both like to nose around the new things that come up. We always enter on the corner of Washington and Dekalb, going through the stone and wrought iron entry that flanks the front gardens. The dog always finds something there to sniff and raise his leg for. I always walk up the short incline to the left, walking along the breadth of the park instead of going into its depths. Our path follows, for a time, the long wide ribbon of grass, dirt, wood chips and trees next to the outer wall. In the fall, there are deep beds of brown, long pine needles there, and long pine cones. In spring, there are occasional gold or purple crocuses and yellow daffodils.
     Last week was the third week of June, and in the middle of the week, almost immediately after reaching the top of the incilne, I saw a rare, dull brown lady robin pecking at the ground with a red-vested gentleman robin. I glanced around. There must be babies. What do I know about when robins build nests? Where were the babies? I wanted to find them and tell people about it.
      Suddenly, Mr. Robin took off in a straight line to a tree with masses of small green leaves. I stopped, tried to peer in to catch the branch Mr. Robin must have landed on, but I couldn’t. Not even on tiptoe. But I calmed down a minute and heard chirps clanging. I exhaled. You just have to take your stories where you find them.

Sparks and Teeth

I was e-talking with my friend, Elizabeth, about the fact that she had wild turkeys and redwoods in her backyard and here I was stuck in Brooklyn, beautiful though it was, while she was holding a writing workshop I could not attend. “Yes,” she said, “but you’re in the center of the known world.” Her words struck, a soft-edged lightning bolt. She  illuminated me. “Yes,” I have to say. “Here, we have never been at a loss for words and empires and people traveling through. Because I walk the dog in Fort Green Park nearly every day and the park makes me happy to be in Brooklyn and because Brooklyn is in New York, and because I can talk to Elizabeth about it, I’m a lucky gal. Right now, the grass is lush and long and dotted with lots of white clover. The starlings and robins dart among the large, sea-size hostas, the scents of the roses cloy and rise, the mockingbirds sing, the squirrels chase. It is easy to forget that the mowers will return and churn up the sounds and the grass as soon as the city decides it has to spend the money. Hoping to miss any poop the long grass has made it hard to see, I walk among the masses of gentle green curves that make me think of tales taking place in meadows.  There is a bunch of pink clover blossoms rising at the side of the path not far from the stairs. Large clover heads rarely appear here because of the mowers. The plantain leaves are getting larger and longer and some of the dandelions are big enough to be lions’ teeth.

The Hanging Tree

It makes me smile to see people bending down to unleash all their dogs the moment they get into the park. The dogs trot or lope off or linger close by. We follow or call them. Our hearts go out under the big sky, feeling every one of the dogs’ bounding stretches, every urgent bark, every high leap, every curled up mop of fur and bone who clumps at our feet. While they do these things, we are standing and often telling each other stories.

I recently met a man who has lived in Fort Greene for forty years. Daniel’s three dogs are large. He carries plastic bags with him for picking up trash.. One morning at 9:00, my dog leashed and his walking nearby, we were making our way to the South Portland Street exit. Straight ahead many, many yards away was the playground with its red roofs and yellow poles. He told me that there used to be a Hanging Tree in that exact spot. The colonists had used it. He’d found this out from an old lady. There she was in a wide, flat-brimmed hat sitting on a bench. She thanked him for picking up trash. She told him about the Hanging Tree. They said their good-byes and he went on.

He encountered some ladies who said to him, “Do you know who that was?”

“An old lady.”

“No, that was Marianne Moore the poet. She never talks to us.”

Daniel glanced at me. His glasses were glinting in the sun, making it hard to see his eyes. “Maybe they weren’t the kind of people she would talk to,” he said, trying not to smile. I haven’t seen him since that day, four weeks ago. He’s in his seventies, I think, and he told me he has health issues. I couldn’t see any. I told him I’d love to write down his Marianne Moore story and show it to him first. We don’t have each other’s phone numbers and he doesn’t have e-mail so I haven’t had the chance to show it to him. But I love the story so much, I hope he won’t mind that I’ve posted it already. I can’t wait to see him in the park and show it to him.


Walking the Dog in Ft. Green Park

This is about things that happen in Fort Green Park. Usually I’m there with my daughter’s 14-pound tawny Havanese during off-leash hours, when dogs have some rights.  Our  dog follows big dogs to make sure they stay out of his territory. He looks like a cross between a cuddly bear and a lion, with a mane fully covering every inch. I only mention his dog-button nose and a perky trot because,  by most accounts, he is so cute. He has been known to snarl and snap snortful blasts at overnosing dogs and to snuggle up to almost any human he meets.  I try for an hour-long walk every morning, including a daily visit with the small-dog-group on the hill. He’s more relaxed with dogs than he used to be, but even with these small dogs, he’s prone to let the others pounce on heads and grab balls while he watches or wanders among them. He’s ready to leave the group at the snap of a finger. Trotting, he stops often, sniffing and peeing out his signals. Wherever we are at 9:00am I go on alert: the park rangers may or may not turn up, with or without bullhorn or car, to enforce the end of off-leash hours. The humans delay attaching leashes, prolonging freedom for as long as they think they can outsmart the rangers. No one wants a $100 ticket. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the park without worrying about snarls and poop, the trees and the people can tell lots of stories,  but  it’s usually better when the dog is roaming on the grass between and under the big old trees.

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