The first time I visited Ryan Park, I only found it because I happened to be driving past its northern entrance. I could not find it on any map. It was only after I explored the western half – thinking I had finished with it – that I discovered a map showing it had another side. I had completely missed the main entrance. There were a couple of ball fields but not much else. A trailhead was marked, but it looked like there was too small a space between it and the pond to be worth much. Still, I decided I should at least make a quick check the next time I drove by.
What I found was astounding. Between the lobes of the pond ran a narrow isthmus on which sat the trail. On either side was just enough brush to feel hidden but not so much that it blocked the view. I was soon way out in the middle of the water. It was quiet except for some frolicking geese. This idea of having long, thin walkways connecting distant islands across the sea is exactly how I would design a planet. In some places, the land was wide enough for there to be side trails, which I took. In other places were forests of densely-packed reeds over nine feet high. Around every turn was something new.
I had discovered a world of intense beauty. This was the prettiest park I had been in. It was still morning, overcast, and sprinkling off and on. It was cool and comfortable. There was no harsh sunlight to hurt my eyes or cast dark shadows in contrast. The lighting was just right for all the colors to pop. Color makes all the difference. Moss and lichen were everywhere.
I reached the mainland on the other side and found a complex web of trails that seemed to go on and on forever. The trees still had not grown out their leaves yet since it was still March and so I could maintain a long enough line of sight not to get lost. I could even see other trails from the trail I was on. Here and there were small, black ponds of the same kind I saw on the west side of the park (where I heard the “fairies”). There were also bowl-like depressions of roughly the same size that I thought should have filled with water, yet had not. Why?
I also saw the same green briars I saw on the west side. In three places I encountered them hanging across the trail and did my best to tuck them away so they wouldn’t catch other hikers. This is harder than it sounds. The thorns kept getting caught on the surrounding twigs and the vines were spring-loaded, requiring me to get a better grip on them – a grip I was unable to achieve without getting thorns in my hands. One time, by pulling on a vine and trying to force it through a narrow opening between two others, I unwittingly pulled a branch of it down so that a thorn hit the corner of my eyelid!
There was a lot to see. I saw a pair of very large blackbirds. I saw a cardinal. I saw a tree with a tumor the size of a large watermelon. At the edge of the park is a stone wall beyond which are houses. Most yards have openings in this stone wall with short trails connecting to the main trail. All these people are lucky to have their own private entrances to the park.
I also saw this mysterious writing. What does it mean? Is it a warning? Is it a welcome mat? Is it graffiti? Or did some animal just scratch the ground to clean off its paws?
Passing by an area with several black ponds I again heard the strange, gurgling, duck-like voice I had heard several days prior on the west side of the park. There seemed to be many more voices here. Just as before, every time I approached one of the ponds it would fall silent. I tried being extra quiet and slow, but even when I stayed on the trail, the moment I was visible from the pool the voices would hush. I stood next to one pond for a long time waiting for it to start up again. I scanned back and forth across the sixty-by-thirty foot puddle looking for even the tiniest movement. I wished I had someone else to experiment with to confirm that the voices stopped for them too, but there was no one around at all. Finally, I saw dim, grey shapes in the water. Frogs! They would float just under the surface totally still as if dead, but the moment I raised an arm, they would rapidly descend into the brown gloom below.
Before I left, I also saw a twisted tree and a hole in the ground next to a creek.
By this time I was in a pretty good mood. Then the sun came out and I thought it was a good day for a drive with the windows down. This was how I ended my March.
How did you end your March?
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.