Men Between the Ponds

One of the comfortable, reliable, everyday things in my neighborhood is the man between the ponds in the park down at the end of my block. Most mornings (not all) there is a man standing on the concrete apron between the flood control ponds doing exercise – somewhat like Tai Chi Chuan, but a little more violent and martial-arts like. I see him when I drive down my alley to go to work. My son, Lee, has said he saw him years ago when he was running cross country before school.

I have paused on my commute and snapped a photo of him, written a quick blog entry, here and here. But I’ve never been able to get a good look because I’m always late for work and don’t have the time. The other day, however, I saw him for the first time on a weekend morning while I was leaving for a bicycle ride and had time to circle around into the parking lot and get a shot from the other side. By that time… another man had joined him.

I’d like to talk to him and find out exactly what he is doing – but I respect what he’s up to and don’t want to disturb his concentration.

Usually, I see the man standing still, but sometimes he’s moving quite a bit.

I drive across the little bridge beyond the man on the right every day on my commute to work.

Two Men Between the Ponds

Back in July I posted a quick entry about a man that was doing Tai Chi Chuan (or something) between the two flood control ponds at the end of my block. He’s out there most days at about the time I go to work.

Man between the ponds
Man between the ponds
He’s become sort of a welcome sight for me in the mornings. I like it when he’s there.
This weekend, I had to work on Sunday, so I headed out at eight or so down the alley. This time, there were two men out exercising between the ponds. One was, I suppose, the same guy as usual, in his black outfit; the other was wearing white. 
Unfortunately, the other day I accidentally opened my camera case upside down and my camera fell out. I’m working on saving enough money to get it fixed (yes, it’s killing me). All I had was my Blackberry, so I took as good a picture as I could.
Men Between the Ponds

Men Between the Ponds

 Maybe someday there will be three.


Man Between the Ponds

Man between the ponds

Man between the ponds

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.