This morning I hike to the top of Cerro de la Bufa, an arduous climb, to enjoy the splendid view of the city of Zacatecas below me. In the distance, beyond the aqueduct, I see the dome of a church that I have not visited. I think I can find it, and after lunch, I walk to Templo de Guadalupito, only to find it closed. I take a few photographs of the church’s exterior, and then start back toward the city center.
Parque Sierra de Alica is situated near the aqueduct. I decide to sit and enjoy the shade for a while and indulge in a little plein air writing. I fill one side of the sheet of stenographer’s paper that I stuffed in my pocket before I left my room.
I have no pressing deadlines to meet this week, but after only a few minutes on the bench, I feel restless. It comes from clocking almost every minute of my life by school bells: the two-minute warning, the dismissal, and then the tardy bell. Three bells every sixty-five minutes, eight hours a day, five days a week.
Why am I wasting my time sitting here? Surely I need to get up and move on.
No, I reassure myself, it’s all right just to sit here for a while and watch the young lovers lock themselves in a seemingly endless embrace, the people reading books, and the guy sleeping in the grass.
In the center of the park is a water display, accompanied by music. It’s not nearly as lavish as the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but the music is soothing and the rising and falling water sounds like a lullaby. No wonder people fall asleep here.
A mother, sitting on a rock the size of the Stone of Scone, watches her two children, a boy and a girl, about ages 10 and 8, play catch on an impossibly steep slope. It’s a miracle they don’t both tumble down and break their crowns.
Another mother and father and their son and two daughters are sharing a picnic lunch in the grass. When they finish eating, the husband and wife lie side by side, belly down, and the husband drapes his left arm over his wife’s shoulder. The older daughter takes a photograph as a memento of this special occasion.
A laboring man limps past me, and settles down on a nearby concrete bench. He fishes something out of his right pocket (I hope it’s not a knife) and starts using the object to dig in his right ear. Then he digs in his left ear. Then, for good measure, he attacks both ears again. Señor, you will have the cleanest ears in Zacatecas!
A young father is taking his infant daughter for a ride in her stroller. As he passes me, our eyes meet and we smile at each other. Another man, walking his golden retriever, also smiles at me.
No one demands to know what an old gringo is doing in their park. They simply welcome me as parched roots welcome rain, or eagles welcome the currents of air that lift them high above sun-drenched canyons. Their smiles tell me that everyone is welcome here: old and young, rich and poor, gay and straight, couples and singles, friends and strangers.
How long has it been since I sat for even ten minutes in a park? How long will it be until I do so again? Did I have to come all the way to Zacatecas to be reminded of the abundant goodness in the world?
I resist the temptation to check the time on my cell phone, for time does not matter in this place. I watch a very young mother encourage her not-quite-two-year-old son to throw his basura, a cheese puff that has fallen to the ground, in the proper receptacle. When he misses, she helps him. As they leave, a blackbird swoops down, fishes the morsel from the trash can, and devours it.
I feel a cool breeze on my face and watch a few parched tree leaves plummet to the ground. I look across the wrought-iron fence toward the fountain and give thanks for the scraggly pink snapdragons that are still blooming, even though it is almost January.
It is late for snapdragons. It is late for many things, but it is never too late to sit on a park bench and simply be.
Text and photo © 2011 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved