The Azalea Pond in Central Park this morning would definitely have caught Monsieur Monet's eye.
Yes, this morning. I ended up having to get an extension on my curriculum paper, but I finally turned it in yesterday, and so this morning I took my vaccinated self back to the Ramble for the first time since last February.
It was strange. Wonderful, but a little scary and terribly, terribly strange. I took an Uber up to the park; I was masked, the driver was masked, and yet after only a few blocks I wanted to yell Stop the car! and flee back to the safety of my apartment. I felt a little better once I was actually in the park, though I was unnerved by all the people. It was hardly surprising that the park would be crowded on a gorgeous spring day when we've all spent far too much time inside over the past year, but it's going to be a long time before I feel comfortable around a mass of people again.
Fortunately it's always much less crowded in the Ramble. I sat on a bench at one point and pulled down my mask; the CDC says I'm allowed to do that now and there was no one else around, but it still felt vaguely transgressive. I closed my eyes and savored the moment, suddenly wanting to cry because the feel of the sun warming my skin, the breeze on my bare face -- such small, lovely things -- made me realize how desperately I have missed, well, everything. I haven't let myself think about all the things, big and little, major and minor, that the pandemic took away. I can't think about them and remain sane. But I got a little bit back today. Just for a little while. Then I pulled up my mask and headed back into the crowds.
I did see many birds, took a hundred bad pictures and a few decent ones, and then took a cab home, which was possibly the best part of the outing. Flying down Ninth Avenue with the windows open, talking to the cabbie about India and Brazil and the street repairs on the West Side -- it was so normal, so beautifully normal.
And yet, it was like a memory of a place I used to live, a language I used to speak, half-forgotten now. It was strange. Wonderful and a little scary, and terribly, terribly strange.