I live across the street from a salt marsh, in the south-east corner of Brooklyn. Marine Park. When we first moved there, the salt marsh was a dumping ground for abandoned cars until the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers cleaned it out: the image of a totem pole of burnt-out cars outside the marsh waiting to be carted away is forever in my memory bank. They made a walking path, put gravel out and it is a peaceful trail with different kinds of reeds and trees on one side, more reeds and water on the other. It is home to herons, rabbits, raccoons, opossum, and a large variety of birds. There are often birdwatchers with huge cameras, romantic couples, and a few solitary people, like me, enjoying the atmosphere.
I do my best thinking while walking on the nature trail. It is not a well-known place so I can often enjoy the reeds swaying — different reeds have their own rhythm but they all sway together. The herons are by the water’s bank and if it’s real quiet I can see a rabbit running back into the reeds for cover when they hear my footsteps in the gravel. The peaceful atmosphere is soothing, and particularly so when I am feeling troubled.
As I write this, it is early spring, and it is cold, but the sky is bright with sunshine. When I’m walking along the nature trail, I am always awestruck by so much sky, with no buildings to interrupt the view. It’s amazing that such a peaceful place exists in Brooklyn, and so I am blessed to enjoy it each and every day. On this particular day, it’s sunny and bright and I realized that the sky looks different in the spring than it does in the winter. The sky is bright blue not a cloud in sight and as I look out at the water’s edge the sky meets the water, a soothing mixture of blues.
What I also notice are the trees, which look so severe and stark with branches that look like they are piercing the sky. Funny, I remember asking my father, “Dad, how far up is the roof?” “The sky doesn’t have a roof,” he said impatiently. “But it looks like it” I said not wanting to give up. “THE SKY DOES NOT HAVE A ROOF” he said in a tone that told me this discussion is over. I am looking at the sky on this bright and beautiful day wondering what it was that made me think that “the sky’s the limit” was wrong because today the sky looks endless. I guess we impose limits so that we will feel safer? On this lovely day I laugh happily as my younger self was imaginative, inquisitive, and kind of cute despite my father’s impatience.
Today the sky looks endless with possibilities, but I am still imposing limits. Not a roof but instead, “ok, I am halfway through, I know there’s a bench around the bend, that one always has kids smoking pot. Someone left beer bottles. It’s been so long since I had beer or wine or any kind of alcohol. I miss fun: These and other thoughts go through my mind instead of just enjoying the salt marsh.
The starkness of the trees were unsettling for me. In winter months the empty trees seem to go better with the grey sky but the empty branches that look like spears against the bright sunny sky is disturbing. A piercing reminder that some things in life are just out of sync. The birds sitting on the branches are exposed. It reminds me of a dream I once had where I dreamt, I was in a shower with glass doors that was placed in the middle of a restaurant so everyone could see me naked, soaping up my body. I felt ashamed and even more so when I told my therapist.
The empty exposed trees are a reminder that I feel safer when I can hide but these days so many emotions are bubbling to the surface. I am angry that I will have cancer for the rest of my life. I’m angry that my medical coverage is changing, and the city wants to save a buck at the expense of retired NYC employees. I am tired of people with concerned frightened faces asking me how I feel, when it is really their feelings that are more of a concern than mine. I am frightened at the thought that one day pills will stop working and my body will deteriorate, and I will need help. I am sad that life wasn’t as I imagined it would be. I thought I’d live “happily ever after” when in fact I am only finding happy moments. I feel sad that I am missing something because I honestly don’t know what would make me happy anyway. Maybe happy is just overrated.
As these feelings are bubbling up inside, I hear my footsteps on the gravel, a slow steady crunching sound under my feet in a steady rhythm. The feelings are there, and I wish the sky really did have a roof so the sadness wouldn’t feel so endless, but my footsteps are still slow and steady as I carry my burden and enjoy the beauty of the salt marsh.