Sunday, July 29, 2007

Park weekends

I've gotten into the habit of walking a couple of laps around the 1 1/4 mile long Cosmo Park Trail on weekend mornings. Zipper and I get up and go, often as the sun is just coming up.

We've had good rain this year, so the park is a saturated and glowing green. The path starts out next to the soccer fields bends around to cross the main road then winds into a long hollow, sliding along several small streams. On humid days, mist floats a foot or so above the ground, alternately silver and sunshot gold. Zipper dashes back and forth across the path, scattering dew, leaving tiny min-pin footprints briefly on the pavement, fading quickly away. He huffs in excited pleasure, laughing, with that sheer unbridled enjoyment of each moment only dogs seem to have.

Through the hollow there are beeches, oaks, and a huge gnarled sycamore that has stood sentinel over a fork in the creek for far longer than the park has existed. It's hollow now and squirrels pop in and out of knotholes. The tree doesn't seem to mind, shaking its huge, dinner-plate sized leaves at the merest hint of breeze. Great strips of its thin bark slowly peel from the trunk, leaving a patchwork of white, tan, grey, and pale acid green.

Crossing a road again leads to the lowest part of the path, deep emerald, still, and below the rising sun's rays. To the right is a great tangle of buckbrush, bush honeysuckle, compass plant, sumac, poison ivy, coneflower, black eyed susan, and goldenrod. Deep within the thicket is the trickle of water, but the stream is hidden.

Zipper's favorite part of the track is just ahead, as we wind up and out of the valley. We emerge into an open mowed field dotted with rabbits frozen to immobility by our approach, like brown rocks. But they can never quite stay still long enough; flipping up their white tails as they scatter, driving Zipper into almost spastic motion--which one? which one? This is the only time when he slams against the end of the flexi, trying to drag me forward. When that doesn't work he rears up on his back legs and hops forward in a desperate plea for me to run, please run so he can just have a small taste of bunny.

As the trail turns back on itself, we're now high, with the golf course groundskeeper grooming the greens on our left and tennis courts, then soccer fields on our right. Whispering in the breeze a breath of notes from a flute, its player never seen as his instrument sings the weekend days into existence. The flute weaves through mockingbird, cardinal, and brown thrasher, sometimes clear, sometimes a fading harmony to nature's concert.

Now the park is coming to life. We encounter a marathon runner, older, whipcord lean. He runs this path only once then strikes North, probably to the Bear Creek trail. The past two weekends have seen the Show Me State Games; boys and girls laughing as they run across the groomed fields, their parents and coaches lagging behind looking like draft animals, weighted down with tents, chairs, coolers, balls, extra equipment, team flags.

By the time we've finished our second lap the mist is starting to burn off and Zipper is panting. He pulls, wanting to go a third; maybe he'll get a rabbit this time. But it's time to go home.

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