Watch­ing the world go by with... ‘ Way­farer’

Evergreen - - News -

The ho­tel was a charm­ing hotch­potch of build­ings from dif­fer­ent eras. The floors weren’t level and you oc­ca­sion­ally had to duck to avoid the his­toric beams.

I sat in my first- floor room, lights out, en­joy­ing the moonlight re­flected from a blan­ket of snow. Two young folk, per­haps back from an even­ing out, stopped by the “crisp and even” lawn.

In a sur­prise mo­ment of ex­u­ber­ance, they lay down and made snow an­gels. Then they held hands and stood in silence looking at their cre­ations. The mo­ment took on a sur­pris­ing solem­nity. They turned to go, but the young man turned back. Gently, he drew ha­los around their snowy heads, and they left.

What had touched them in that mo­ment of con­tem­pla­tion? Was it the won­der of na­ture in its frosty beauty, or had they tapped into some­thing more di­vine, recog­nis­ing the urge that lies dor­mant in so many to be closer to heaven, to be an­gels in this life?

I don’t know the an­swer. But the ques­tion — and the scene — has stayed fresh in my mind for two decades.

Like the ho­tel the park had a mixed history. A cen­tury ago the area was dot­ted with coal mines, rail­way yards and min­ers’ rows.

Now there is a large “pond” in the cen­tre of it all. It’s the flooded mouth of a mine shaft, but I doubt the birds that pad­dle there care about such de­tails.

In good weather the pond has lots of vis­i­tors bear­ing bread. That’s when the fun be­gins! The ducks are fast, but the seag­ulls are big­ger and nois­ier. The swans are slow to rouse but no one comes be­tween them and lunch.

Gen­er­ally, they keep to their own parts of the pond and any­time some­thing brings them to­gether, like bread, the result is a noisy, squawk­ing free- for- all.

Then win­ter came. Judg­ing by the undis­turbed snow on the banks no one else had been there for days. The pond had frozen from the out­side in, but a small area in the mid­dle was still ice free. In a cir­cle of wa­ter, maybe 15- feet across, ducks, swans and seag­ulls co- ex­isted peace­fully,

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