There are these two flood control ponds down in the park at the end of my street. Every day, every damn day, I drive to work down my alley, facing the ponds, and then make a left turn over a little bridge and past them. Every day.
In the evenings the ponds are popular with walkers, picnickers, and fishermen (though I have never seen anyone actually catch anything). But during the day, the area is pretty much deserted, save an occasional walker on the trail.
A while back as I was making my left turn, I thought I caught a lone figure out of the corner of my eye. I was not paying much attention, though, I was thinking about work, so I put it out of my mind quickly. But the next day, I saw the same thing.
The next day, I paid a little more attention. Sure enough, there was a black-clad figure out in the middle of the ponds. The two ponds are separated by a concrete apron – during wet seasons the water flows over this spillway. Lately, however, under drought conditions, this area is as dry as a bone. There is still some water leaving the ponds, not much more than a trickle, it must be seeping through under the concrete.
But why would someone be standing out there? I thought I saw a city truck down by the road, maybe it was a workman digging out algae or repairing a pipe or something.
Then the man disappeared. I didn’t know if he was gone for good, or simply making his appearance during some time other than my morning commute.
And then he was back. This time I could see clearly enough to realize that this was a black-clad person out between the ponds doing some exercises, probably Tai Chi Chuan or some variation. I could see him progressing smoothly through his set of exercises and movements.
It was an arresting sight. The dark figure, clear, yet distant enough that I could not make out any details, moving, mysterious. There are a lot of people that practice various martial or meditative arts, usually in small groups, in the park or around the ponds, but nobody has chosen such a dramatic location as the apron between the ponds.
I started carrying my camera in the passenger’s seat in the morning in hopes of getting a picture. For a week the man didn’t show, but then this morning, there he was. I must have caught him at the end of his routine, he was standing motionless. I snapped a couple of shots and drove on. I don’t know how long he stayed there in that position.
I wonder if he is there on the weekend, on a day that I don’t have to rush out to work. I might walk a little closer, wait until he is finished, ask him details of what he is doing and why.
Or maybe I’ll let him remain a mystery – a distant dark figure out between the ponds, a monument to discipline and relaxation to be glimpsed for a second through a car window on days while I’m hurrying off to the rat race.