Sunday, January 23, 2005

First Robin of - er - winter?

What a good weekend.

Stayed closer to home today, but once it stopped snowing & cleared up & got gorgeous I decided to head out to Prospect Park. My ramble plan was to go around the lake, through the ravine & come out somewhere on the Park Slope side. That gives a pretty nice sample of the scenic effects Olmstead & Vaux planned out so well way back in the 1800's. (I've been told that Olmstead considered Prospect Park to be more of a success than Central Park because the illusion of being in some far-away pastoral fancy is much more complete - it's really quite a place, hard to imagine it was all built & planted, but it was).

Going to the park after a heavy snow is great. Everybody's there for the sole purpose of playing in the snow. All colors, all ages - all of us with the same slightly goofy "isn't this FUN" look on our faces. There's a lot more eye contact as people pass each other, a lot of quick but friendly exchanges between strangers that you just don't hear on a normal day. Particularly cheerful due to the storm being conveniently on a weekend. Now on a weekday the looks & exchanges would still be happening - but they'd be more rueful - lots of what-can-you-do eye-rolling - than cheerful as we'd all be struggling to get to our homes before the trains decided to quit working.

But it was on a weekend, which was great. Prospect Park's always beautiful but with a foot of fresh snow, it's your Winter Wonderland to a tee, snowmen in the meadow and all. Everybody going sledding - or ice-skating - or x-country skiing (man I gotta get me a pair of those) - or like me just doing that penguin waddle even the most graceful person does in the snow (we are not really well adapted for walking in snow, are we? part of the fun, though) - but everybody happy & having fun. The air was filled with the sound kids yelling with that gleefully panicked noise kids do when they're sledding, laughter, dogs barking along happily. I passed one trio that was walking a big brown dog that was just leaping through the snow and bounding up to every person they passed (including me) with a look on his face that just said "Isn't this the greatest thing EVER?". Of course dogs are just generally great that way but this one was being particularly specific in going up to everyone he passed to make sure that they understood that.

I'm not a bird-watcher but at one point I did stop & watch some birds. There was a woman standing watching & photographing them, so I figured they must be doing something interesting. And it was pretty interesting (at least to my non-TV-owning real-world-preferring way of thinking). First off - they were robins! Somehow I had always thought robins headed south for the winter - y'know, first robin of spring and all that? But nope, there they were. Wasn't sure at first because they had their feathers all fluffed up so much that they looked like much rounder, fatter birds - but they were. The path was bordered by a low stone wall; it was in the sun & sheltered from the wind & covered with water from the snow melting on the sunny slope above.

I don't know if the birds were thirsty or if there were some sort of bugs in the wall that they were catching, but they lined up like people sitting down to breakfast at the counter of a busy coffeeshop. The photographer moved on but I stayed for a while & there were at one point 15 of 'em - all totally concentrating on whatever it was in the wall. Interesting. As I said, I'm not a bird-watcher - but I like watching animals in general, and it's fun when they really quit watching you back & settle back down to doing whatever it was before you got there. These were birds that were clearly not too worried about people - whenever anyone else came by, they'd fly away - but not too far, and then they'd quickly come trickling back down one or two at a time. Finally a whole flock went by overhead & the ones at the wall went flying up to join them.

I wonder if they were on their way south & took shelter in the park yesterday when the storm started? Strange to see so many robins in the snow.

Anyways, great day. 'Course, most of the evening was spent attempting to plow through chapter 1 of Robert C. Higgins' "Analysis for Financial Management" - but that was good in its' own way, been procrastinating on that - and life just can't all be cozy-wozy, now can it?

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