I think you know the 1884 painting, Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat. I'm reminded of it every time I go to Cal Anderson Park, not simply because both involve parks. It's a depiction of the community at large coming out together, strangers and friends in pleasant company. The neighborhood's all here. It's inevitable I'll run into someone I know when strolling about the grounds.
As well, the longer one scrutinizes that painting, the more oddities one notices (is that a monkey on a leash? More here); so too is it true of being in Capitol Hill's busiest park. With time, the generations are slowly becoming less tolerant of bigotry, and the haven the Hill has always been continues to offer space for the marginalized– as well as just the plain old quirky– among us. The acrobats in my periphery, doing things I don't have names for; castoff kids in a scruffy circle, wearing more paraphernalia than clothing, giving each other the love and acceptance they perhaps aren't finding at home.
I'm with my friend, seated by the pool. It's a dirty green today, the sort of beauty you have to work with. Her natural blonde hair flutters in the warm breeze. We speak quietly. Another friend walks by, stroller in hand, and introduces her family. All is well.
And then there are noises. Behind my friend, past her blonde wisps, beyond the pool; here is a man screaming into his phone. Big and tall, profane, shouting with his whole body. He happens to be African-American. He is bald with John Lennon sunglasses, with an ex-athlete's build, dressed down in something like an Adidas tracksuit and jacket. Mid-forties. He roared.
And now here is another man, thirty-something skinny, trim and open black denim jacket, coiffed mustache, bearded, approaching. He happened to be white. He went up to the angry man, softly, easily. Hesitantly. I could see by their body language they were strangers.
The skinny fellow offered his extended arms in a hug.
He nodded a little. The big man took a moment to understand. His roaring trailed off, and he became still. They drew together, understanding. They swayed a little, like lovers, and backslapped a little, like brothers, holding each other in the present moment, quietly, in recognition of the deeper truths. I looked on in astonishment. What bravery! What intrepid nerve on the part of the man to offer that, and what courage for the other to receive it. Their silent peace was louder than all the noise.
It may have been the most beautiful thing I've seen in a decade.