December 23, 2017
It’s 28 degrees and my fingers and toes are cold, bloodless. It’s a white winter day in Rye Town Park and I’m here because it makes my dogs happy.
They are allowed to roam free in this park every morning. And they love it. So here I am.
I usually chat with other dog owners and roam around the park, but on this particular day I find myself standing stock still, boots crunching into frozen ground, surveying the Long Island Sound. An old-fashioned Amelia Earhart-era plane putters overhead. The noise is calming. I take it all in, and the scene resets my breathing and slows my heart rate.
I watch my breath as it puffs, backlit by the glare of the morning sun against the white carpet of snow, and the shimmering Sound.
Our dogs, Bode and Libby, are small and exuberantly gallop around. Time slows down as I stare a good long while at that plane, as it makes it’s way leisurely across the sky. My gaze lowers to the attractive terra cotta rooftops of the Rye Park Bathing Pavillion, erected in 1909, then to the smooth glistening slope of the park, dotted with meandering dogs and wool-bundled Rye residents.
Beyond them, I focus in on the sight of the white wooden Ferris wheel at the historical Playland Amusement Park.
I think back to when we first moved to Rye, in January of 1998. I was pretty pregnant and my husband and I moved into a Nantucket-style 1940’s saltbox on Rye Beach Avenue. Back then, we often walked the length of the boardwalk that cradled Playland Park Beach. The amusement park, a part of our own childhoods (and also featured in the blockbuster movie BIG, which was about transcending time, in fact), was a constant, as we pushed our new babies along the weathered grey planks that crinkled under the big wheels of our snazzy double jogger.
Now those babies are in college, that stroller is long gone, but the boardwalk is still the same.
My eyes roll to the right, following the length of that boardwalk as it juts out into the sea. The pier is still splintered, but solid, stalwart and sea-soaked. The sky is a machine-gun grey, blending in with the calm, dense ripples along the surface of the sound. The water laps gently at the sand, a cold hard strip of beige, just as it did a hundred years ago.
The dogs are buoyantly wrestling. The cold air seems as if it is making them frolick faster, while time slows down. It hits me then, this feeling, this is why I come here. It’s not just the dogs, or the babies, it’s me, and it’s this park. I’m drawn to this space because it slows time down and slows down my racing heart and mind.
I used to get this same slowed-down feeling when I spent time with my grandparents. God I miss them. Then I look around the park and realize how serenely still and silent it is, this timeless scene. I’m full of gratitude to everyone who has ever played a part in creating, and then in preserving this space.
I look down and swear the dogs are smiling. I’m so happy that they give me an excuse to come here, since my babies are all grown up, to experience this calming sensation of timelessness.
Technology, development, change, hustle and bustle—this place is such a respite from it all. Instead there is preservation, history, and a frozen-in-time feeling, which creates a transcendence—a weightlessness. I can almost feel the parasol in my hand, the long blue skirt edged in dust and wide-brimmed hat, and hear the honking of my Sears motor buggy. I can almost picture the bathers in their black taffeta bathing suits, handkerchiefs and wool dresses with sailor collars, milling about the bathing pavilion. History is closer here. And I leave feeling so calm and serene, so rooted, yet so timeless, just like the park itself.
My takeaway materializes then: the more we rely on technology these days, the more imperative these unplugged moments become. And when we travel, with loved ones or alone, our vacations, trips, getaways should always hope to contain these moments.
Unplugged moments from my own travels come to mind: that cozy train compartment when my best friends and I backpacked around Europe during college, the climb up Huayna Picchu with the kids above the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, that first pink glimpse of the Taj Mahal at sunrise, stepping into a silent cathedral in Salzburg in the middle of a hot summer day, sitting inside the coolness of Barcelona’s La Segrada Familia with my kids, staring up at all that soaring stained glass, standing alone on a Montauk beach in winter.
The off-season, empty of all the mayhem, is filled with powerful moments of appreciating preserved beauty. Go at sunrise, go to cold beaches in the winter. Go stroll in a park or get a little lost. Go out of your comfort zone, perhaps some cold-water surfing,
or hop onto a paddle board in the middle of a snowstorm.
Go find the empty spaces of the Long Island Sound in the middle of winter–be out there when no one else is–and take a look around.
It is such a magical and timeless space. We are so lucky to live right here in Rye, with so much of this natural beauty right at our doorstep. Merry Christmas, and go get out there, the sea is calling.