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High Holiday Musings of a Central Park Flâneur

By Naomi Serviss


The author and her yoga guide Sylvie Bruandet
The author and her yoga guide Sylvie Bruandet

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,

brain-piercing sirens,

air horns,

jackhammering and

car horn leaners.


Equally opportunity,

Upper West Side

Peace offenders.


Aurally assaulted before

leaving our 10th floor apartment.


A half-block away is the

Upper East Side transverse.


Traffic magnet.

Been getting up

by 5 a.m., a quirk

turned habit.


I caffeinate,

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

diligently double-checking

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

and inspiration

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

blissed-out lunatics.


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

people-watching,

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,

twitchy tails

telegraph their

bounty.


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

commands attention

in every dog pile

he crashes.


Overheard conversation makes

good copy.


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

wide-legged slacks,

floated by,


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

from scratch,


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.


Happy Samara yoga aficionados
Happy Samara yoga aficionados

I’m learning cheerful poses like:


Alphabet in Space


and


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

positive intentions

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

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