Sunday, May 22, 1-2 pm
Garfield Park Conservatory, Central Park and Lake
“I could feel your energy from way over there”
We hug right outside the Garfield Park Conservatory on a warm, sticky Sunday afternoon. On the bike ride over, which takes on twenty minutes, I wonder why it is I don’t make it down here more often. The Conservatory always brightens my day.
We pick a spot in the shade of a large tree and settle in. Many young families come and go and the kids are carrying small plants on their way out. “In exactly 10 days, I am going to have my very own vegetables,” a boy, about age four, says to his mom. “Don’t worry, I’ll share them with you.”
Some of the kids stare at us when the walk past and others don’t even seem to notice. Prehaps what we are doing is not all that out of the ordinary. “Why are they hugging for so long?” a girl asks her mother. “They are advertising,” her mother replies. I wonder what she thinks we are advertising.
From where I am standing I can see the broad leaves of the banana trees through the windows of the Conservatory. Today I am calm and slow-moving, grateful to be hugging Sara on a beautiful day in this magical place. I consider how it is possible to live in a city and also cultivate an intimate relationship with nature. There are people in my life who are very good at doing this–bird watchers and bee keepers and urban agriculturalists. I think about community and wonder if I am doing enough to build and support mine. I am full to the brim, welled up, and tears begin to come down my face.
Today’s hug is especially spiritual. A man comes up and hugs us. I can’t see his face but I feel his warm and gentle embrace and he says, “It feels good.” A group of older women exit the Conservatory, seemingly after a worship service. Several say “God bless you,” when they see us and one comes over to invite us to their weekly sermon. I know Sara and I will not attend the sermon, but I am grateful for the invitation anyway. A couple of people stop to talk and give us hugs. They invite us to their meditation group, which would be meeting inside the Conservatory soon after our hug.
When our hug ends, Sara and I make our way into Conservatory. We have a picnic in the garden out back, and while we are sitting in the grass a young guy comes over to introduce himself. His name is Cesar. I recognize him from earlier. He had come up to us to say, “I could feel your energy from way over there,” pointing down the street. As we are eating our lunch we tells us that he came out from the suburbs to come to the meditation group. He has never come before and is a bit nervous. He has tried meditation before but thinks he is not very good at it. He says that he is very spiritual. He used to go to church but doesn’t anymore. He doesn’t feel like his friends or family really understand him. He is looking for something, some kind of understanding. After our lunch, the three of us try to find the meditation group, but we don’t see the group where they said they would be. Instead, the three of us sit together on the tall benches near the Labrinth and meditate on our own. While my eyes are closed I hear birds chirping. The air is warm and sweet. I am still, surrounded by green life.