High Holiday Musings of a Central Park Flâneur
By Naomi Serviss
My daily communion in Central Park has nothing to do with religion,
even during Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.
It’s a sensory attunement sought.
For 11 years I’ve been overstimulated by
relentless construction cacophony,
car horn leaners.
Upper West Side
Aurally assaulted before
leaving our 10th floor apartment.
A half-block away is the
Upper East Side transverse.
Been getting up
by 5 a.m., a quirk
ruminate, ‘til darkness lifts.
Then head out.
M96 bus passengers are queued up
at the stop
across the street.
I carefully cross Central Park West after
for rogue cyclists.
The hint of clove essence drifts,
crickets herald dawn’s approach,
marking time before birdsong.
A feathered friend-loving
cab driver stopped
on the transverse shoulder,
darted out with a
wild bird seed sack
poured it out
on the shoulder,
jumped back into his car
and merged seamlessly
into eastbound traffic.
His kindness was duly noted.
Musicians and artists find refuge
for drumming, strumming, sketching
and en plein oil painting.
Very good dogs with owners close,
stop at will,
unleashed until 9 a.m.
They roll on dewy grass like
About a mile in, I pause
at a bank of green benches
anchored by black wrought iron legs.
By 7 a.m. foot traffic builds.
This is a popular
prime real estate perch.
Gloved boxers jab, rope jumpers skip
and bench-pressers work it.
A diverse community
of familiar strangers
has become my tribe.
I’ve learned names and back stories.
Sharone bemoans her roommate plight.
Her mischievous pup Mr. Bentley,
is not as dignified
as his moniker suggests.
Monica has a favorite bench she shares
with her gorgeous golden retriever Mara.
A lupus-battling sister troubles her.
Blair and Yuki leave
nut buffets at tree bases,
eager squirrels scoop up
hazel and walnuts,
The couple has known one another
19 years, married for nine.
Three paths flow through this juncture.
There goes the 100-pound weight-carrying man,
whose lean, reddish hound trailblazes ahead.
Parents with school-uniformed,
backpacked, masked kids in tow
rush along before 8 a.m.
Yehuda’s screaming beagle Bean
in every dog pile
Overheard conversation makes
A voice behind me snapped,
“Keep moving, keep moving.”
I turned and asked nonchalantly:
“Are you talking to me?”
Her classic New York retort:
“Why would I talk to a stranger?”
One day a swiftly moving,
statuesque figure with
pixie-cut salt-and-pepper hair,
black tunic and flowy black
a white poster board tucked under her arm.
Tan Italian leathered sandals skimmed the path.
Her wide smile welcomed me
before I reached her side.
Meet Sylvie Bruandet, my new Yoga guide.
She’s a French native whose family recently
moved to the Upper West Side.
A Samara Yoga instructor-in-training,
Sylvie’s striking black tunic and pants
designate teaching status.
An all-white ensemble is worn by students.
Samara Yoga is a traditional art of meditation in movement, taught for centuries in the Samara valley, in the Russian Steppe.
Sylvie’s high hopes encompass
growing a neighborhood practice
beneath majestic pines,
near swings, picnic tables
and the Great Lawn.
We agreed to meet at 7:30
the following morning.
For two weeks, I was her lone student
before curious onlookers approached shyly.
This yoga flavor is a
gentle movement practice,
with concentration on Chakra
balance and flow.
I’m learning cheerful poses like:
Alphabet in Space
The Stretch of the Joy of Life
We’re lulled into harmony
by her melodious accent and
beguiling, infectious smile.
Sylvie radiates joy as we
echo her contemplative movements,
meditative music playing
softly from her iPhone.
We breathe mindfully, with
and gratitude for our journey.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com