I had a time travel experience.
No, it wasn’t a dream, but I felt dazed, like I’d taken too long a nap. Maybe I time traveled because I’d spent part of this winter in a motel room in Salt Lake City—relocated here since my husband’s surgery. I needed to get outside, smell fresh air, and feel the sunshine on my face. Yes, I wanted to shake the cold off, and move around—but not necessarily travel in time.
My experience began with a simple walk. Some of my best flights (of imagination) happen walking. I’d seen a city park driving through downtown Salt Lake that had a nice footpath circling a pond full of ducks. Finding the entrance to the park though, proved difficult. I drove past tennis courts, an aviary, and an outdoor stage, all located within the park confines, but couldn’t find the entryway. This park seemed a world of its own–and at 80 acres (I read later)—it was its own sphere. On a side street, I finally spotted the park entrance and central pathway, lined on either side by poplars and mulberry trees.
It was amazing such a large park was located in the middle of this big city. As soon as I got out of the car, I took a deep breath of fragrant wood-scented air, and closed my eyes. In the background I heard traffic honking, an ambulance siren, and faint, car-radio music.
I can’t explain the rush of feeling at that moment, but suddenly I was in Central Park, New York City, several years ago.
It was the time I’d taken my teenage children to New York for a “cultural experience.” But they, being teenagers, weren’t interested in culture. Aubrey kept dodging around corners in Little Italy, trying to avoid my camera. And Sammy had his nose so deep in a fantasy novel, he hardly noticed the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Park, that was the name of this urban escape in Salt Lake. I saw it clearly labeled on a nature-friendly, green sign. As I read it I felt such a deep longing, a missing of my younger children.
A good heart-pounding walk, not just a stroll, would probably clear my head and shake me out of my fugue. I saw plenty of power walkers and joggers around me, so I joined the flow. Fifty minutes later and just past the Chase House, a folk art museum in the park, I was gratifyingly flushed and sweaty.
I leaned an arm up against a tree for a brief rest-stop, and soon found myself staring at a little girl skipping along the park sidewalk near me. It was late afternoon and the shadows on the sidewalk caught my attention. Maybe it was the angle of the light, soft and buttery, but an ancient memory arose, and then, I was a little girl again, in Chicago in the 1950’s. I was playing in front of our big, white apartment building. As I hop-scotched I saw my shadow on the cinder block wall.
What stood out was how rich my emotions were, the joy and wonder I felt then, not yet muted by time and age.
Next to my tree in Salt Lake, I was momentarily elated.
I slowly made my way back to the parking lot. As I opened my car door, I glanced above the park trees and saw the high, snow-clad peaks of the Wasatch Mountains. I smiled to myself. The great American author, William Faulkner, once wrote, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” This late afternoon, at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Image credit: Diana Hooley Image credit: Diana Hooley