Saturday, May 14, 2005

Having, But Not Owning (And The Freedom Thereof)

I don't want to brag, but Tom and I have our own private park on Lake Ontario.

Really, we do. Acres and acres of green lawn and huge trees stretching across the shore right beside a tiny ghost-town-like place. All of it belongs to us.

A hundred years ago Victorian families used to stay at a huge brick hotel right on the shore... and when settled, they would walk to the carousel further down the park or to either of the carnival grounds, both just steps away. And of course, they would sit beside the ocean-like lake for hours in their proper bathing costumes for the times.

In the 1930's, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey--all those guys--used to bring their bands into this tiny country town. The farmers and their families, as well as the city-folk would stream-in to hear them play.

But now the town sits nearly-silent. Especially on the warm Tuesday or Wednesday mornings when Tom and I visit our park.

The Victorian hotel is gone. It was razed over 70 years ago and one of the fairgrounds has vanished, too. A shell of the other one still sits there, unused. But the carousel was restored just last year and even another carousel spins beside it, though only during summer and early autumn.

And the park is still there. Mostly the same as it always was--quiet and heavy with memories. Of course, The Lake still reigns and we love to watch the white sails of the boats and the seagulls out on the slanty concrete piers.

It's an incredible thing to have your own park. Tom and I pack up our 1950's wool blanket, the dark pink one with flowers, and our books. We stop at the same market on the way and buy a picnic lunch and then we drive further to our park and unload our things on nearly always the same patch of green grass overlooking The Lake. And we eat and read and take gulping breaths of lake air. But mostly, we dream.

Of course, we share our park with others willingly. But whenever we go, we usually notice only three or four other people during all our hours there. They sit or stroll with dreamy-eyed thoughts, too. One Sunday afternoon, there was even a Big Band Era concert in the park and that was amazing. It felt as though the music had returned after such a long time--and the trees recognized it and danced.

But most often, Tom and I are the only ones there beneath those hundred-year-old trees which saw and watched the Victorian crowds.

Tom and I have lots and lots of things which we do not own--things like the aging farmhouses and barns and farmland on our way to The Lake... the many Craftsman-house-lined streets in our town... and our 1920's theater built in grand style when money flowed free and easy for many... the streams and rivers... All those things are ours, yet we make no big monthly payments on them... nor do we pay exorbitant costs for their upkeep... and we do not run ourselves into the ground making repairs... I can even smile at the taxes we pay when I realize that, in a way, taxes make these things a little more ours.

But the best thing we have is our own park on the shores of The Lake. It is ours, but we do not own it. It belongs to us, but only in our opened hands.

It seems the best things in life are what we have, but do not own. That's the way that Tom and I are re-learning how to live. It's a good feeling to no longer want to pack up and move into every big, glorious farmhouse on the side of the road, but rather, to just be happy for the people who live there. And to just feel they are sharing their good fortune with those of us who are simply passing through.


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