• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024
An image of green swings

I sit in silence in my little parkette oasis, existing in a momentary escape from the pulsating city that no longer embodies the space I once called home. Taking in the nature that envelops me, I desperately try to block out the sounds of the thriving urban life and centre my senses to focus on my immediate surroundings. The late evening sun warms my skin and projects long wispy shadows onto the dewy grass. The contrast of the heat beaming on my body and the cool dampness of the ground beneath my feet takes me back to moments of my past, to a childhood that unfolded on this very soil. I can recall walking in this very same park, barefoot and open hearted. It was the most liberating feeling, back to a time when not a worry in the world daunted my spirits. As the wind blows amongst the trees and dances through my hair, I inhale deeply. The smell of spring fills my lungs—a combination of decay and new life pushing its way through the surface of the Earth after the last thaws of Demeter’s frozen plague. It feels as though I can almost taste the teeming life: the rich soil, the rotting leaves, and above all, the sweet, distant memories that rest on the tip of my tongue. Those memories that seem so vivid and certain, yet somehow, irretrievably savorless.     

While thoughts of sandcastles and dandelions once occupied my mind, they are now overrun by overwhelming worries of the essay due next week that I can’t bring myself to write; to the rent bill that I haven’t paid; to the extensive readings piled up beside my bed whose unread presence consumes my brain more than it consumes them. I feel weighed down as Plath’s lady Lazarus, confined as Elliott’s etherized patient, and somehow through all the beautiful nature around me I finally understand the meaning of Milton’s Paradise Lost that my professors so unsuccessfully attempted to convey. Because here I am, isolated in my own wasteland of baren happiness, and I scarcely recognize my own footprints in the sand that once filled my heart with warmth and familiarity. Did I lose my paradise, or just myself?

Not a living soul can be seen from where I sit on the same old swing I sat upon as a child. The creaking of the rusty metal sings a broken melody as I softly rock back and forth. Everything I observe looks exactly the same as it was eighteen years ago. The loneliness, however, is new. So here I sit, a vessel as empty and desolate as the park itself, so deeply saddened by my childhood paradise lost, yet the rest of the world goes on living around me. Unaware, impervious to my grief, and though others look, only I seem to notice how much the world around me has changed, or how much I have changed. I know I am no longer the innocent child my heart so hopelessly longs to be. Inevitably, the realities of time have consumed my past, so I assume the park has simply outgrown me, as my life has outgrown childhood. Who could have guessed that solitude would one day be my most loyal companion?

Accepting the truth I already have within, I close my eyes and continue swinging as the May sunlight slowly fades to the obscurity of dusk. Embracing the park as an old friend, I allow my weary heart to run freely with the cool breeze and unchain my tired soul from the strain of adulthood. And though the feeling is fleeting, in that brief moment the vacancy inside me is replete, and I am a child once again,

for the very last time.  

1980s – 0303 Kids swinging – Vicky Carolyn” by Claire CJS is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.