Sunday, November 20, 2016

Queens Giant

From the very first moment I heard about the Queens Giant I was intrigued.  I am not sure if it first started when I saw some article about it in the newspaper or whether my friend Chris from the Parks department mentioned to me that the oldest living thing in New York was not that far away.

Needless to say Chris, who worked exclusively with trees in Queens knew all about it.  An ancient Tulip tree that had been around for perhaps 400 plus years.  At the same time when he talked about it he was just a little cautious.  It felt some how a little mysterious.  It was though it was right there, not too far away but at the same time as well, not easily accessible.

The city had obviously adopted the rather practical philosophy of recognizing it while at the same time subtly discouraging only the most ardent and dedicated of admirers from coming and getting too close.  Knowing likely that a tiny segment of all those who went there would not have the best interests of the tree or its preservation as a major concern. 

Of course now anyone can locate it on google easily.  The omnipotent search engine where everything and anything is revealed and accessible instantly.  Whether any of it is accurate or appropriate is another matter, and currently part of popular discussion.    Nonetheless a little blue icon popped up showing that the tree was near the cross roads of 2 of Queens major thoroughfares.  Yet it was not clear from the map that there was an actual path that would take you right to it.

I had been out with my friends, the brothers Unmesh and Ranjit a number of times over the past few weeks for some aimless rambles in local parks.   These excursions where inspired most recently by the abundance of beautiful fall foliage.  On one occasion they used the opportunity to focus on photography.  Ranjit dragging a tripod and large format camera around with him.  I was not so ambitious.

True I carried a small pocket camera with me but what interested me most about these excursions was some nebulous combination of companionship and adventure.  Those intangibles that seem to mean so much to our lives and yet we are so often  misguided or ill equipped to be successful in our pursuit of.

On one trip we went to the Planting fields, a park not too far off on Long Island.  The day was delightful.  The air still and warm and of course the leaves perhaps resplendently perfect.  I took only 2 or 3 pictures.  My priority instead drifted towards nothing in particular. I had no plan.  Indulging instead in the spontaneity of just looking, listening, and endlessly joking with these 2 friends of more than 40 years.

It was a day devoid of awkwardness and any serious expectations.  A kind of ideal situation in which old friends can communicate and share without constraints or agenda.  Jokes and jibes flowing with sometimes more color than the fall foliage.  No important discussions of any kind really and yet each exchange had an internal value that somehow felt rich and priceless.

The 2 brothers are unique in both the generous expanse of their intelligence and their humor. I of course have to add that they seem at the same time to be explicitly devoid of any evidence of sentimentality.  A quality I recognize that I just may have too much of an abundance of.   Yet in the easy going chemistry of true friendship it is one that doesn't appear to get in the way of the 3 of us having a good time taking a long walk in a beautiful park.

These walks at their essence seem spontaneous and richly satisfying.  A result that can only come when expectation is set by the wayside and you move forward with your eyes and your heart wide open.

A few years ago when my friend Kalyan was very sick I went to visit him one last time in San Diego.  I was carrying with me at the time a small camera.  The day before I left for home we went for a brief stop at a local beach where I took this picture.

He had been a friend of mine for many years and we both knew that this would be the last time we would see each other. 

I can't tell you now if we ever spoke about 'important things.'  I do not recall our conversation ever veering towards the intangible mysteries of life.  We just basked, in the pleasure of each others company.

Finding the silly jokes and humor of our life experience.  Both of us aware and knowing full well that all of humanity  is attempting as best they can to trudge along. Trying to make some sense out of our world and find their purpose in it.

Tasks which stubbornly confront all of us and which none of us can seem seem to make much progress at.  That is at least the outer world anyways. Then again the inner world is even more vast and incomprehensible.

To this day Kalyan is still vibrant and present in some bright portion of my heart.  And despite all my best intentions of pushing him aside, his rather substantial presence within me stubbornly refuses to budge. Instead I am left with the indelible impression that he will always remain in my heart.  Which is an experience, my natural sentimentality seems to warmly embrace and accept.

Yesterday in Alleypond park Rangit, Unmesh, and I easily found the Queens Giant.  A task that ultimately was pretty simple and easy once we got to the Park.  There is a plaque after all on the fence next to the road near by.

Yet the path, which is a good one, only takes you close.  There is a large treacherous depression that keeps only the most adventurous of hikers from getting up near enough to touch it.  We took pictures as the afternoon light was fading, from quite a distance away.

You have to be very patient and work quite hard in order to be able to actually go over and stand beneath its sparse canopy.  But maybe appreciating its long full life does not require that.  A physical encounter secondary to acknowledging that what we all need to do is simply keep moving, keep finding joy, and keep revealing the sacred mysteries within ourselves.

Life is
A continuously
Sacred adventure
Towards Infinity.