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Friday, September 2, 2011

Why I Like my Park

Possessive, aren't I?

I've decided that one of and possibly the best thing(s) about living in the Towers is the big park across the street.  Not only is it remarkably convenient for dealing with Ted, but I love watching the landscape of life in Helsinki go by.  It's particularly nice in the stretch right in front of the Towers.  There the block lengthens and the space between the streets widens, so there's really a lot of space for all sorts of community functions.  The other sections of the park are narrower and, while lovely, aren't as vibrant.

What do I mean by this?  Let me give you the example of last night.  It's become my pattern once I get home from work to take Ted for a walk, then spend an hour or two of the late afternoon/evening sitting on the small patio attached to the common room at the end of the hall.  Ted lays out there with me, and between him and the reading chair, we pretty much take up the whole patio.  It's even got a bit of a roof from the patio above ours, so we can sit like this when it's raining out.  I figure one of this year's questions will be how long the weather lets me do that.

In any case, yesterday we moved out there about 5:30 and had the usual view of the soccer field, the big children's play area, and the large gravel walking paths to keep Ted amused while I pretended to read.  At various times I'd hear something or I'd look up for some more mysterious reason; often they were smiling at the dog on the balcony as people walked past on the sidewalk, and I'd wave at them and sometimes even exchange a few words.  Since the balcony overlooks the entrance to the Towers, Ted and I are becoming an unofficial greeting committee, and one of the new people on my hall said he was inspired to come down and introduce himself by seeing us (read Ted) there.

It's particularly fun watching life in the park.  Hearing the kids squeal and giggle in the playground is always nice, although I have to reassure Ted when he hears one cry.  I'm getting now so that I recognize some of the "regular" dogwalkers and smile when I see the pair of black terriers, the white pit mix, and the wild young German Shepherd go by; my personal favorite is a HUGE, male Irish Wolfhound and a small black Dachshund that always walk together.  What a juxtaposition!  Ted is, of course, fascinated by the parade of dogginess, and I get a giggle that I'm starting to recognize regular patterns: a couple of nights a week a group of 20-somethings play soccer, there's another group of Japanese students that play some game like boules, and a large gathering of boules players that every Tuesday evening fills the soccer pitch.

Last night, though, was particularly pleasant and cemented why I like my park.  It started with the usual crowd on a slightly cool late afternoon with scattered clouds.  Then a young couple moved onto the soccer pitch with toddlers and the smallest soccer ball I'd ever seen.  Watching the kids try to run after the ball, much less kick it in the direction of the net, was adorable.  Then, there was some sort of kids' concert in the play area, which I discovered when I started to hear "The Hokey Pokey" come out over the loudspeakers.  From the balcony I couldn't see the singer, but I could see some of the littlest ones trying to hokey pokey.  (And, yep, I recognized about half the songs.  It's amazing how international they are--or how American culture has taken over!)  Then, across the park, this man pulled up with a large truck and unloaded an absolutely beautiful horse, and I know what I'm talking about ther; it almost inspired me to go down.  He spent about half an hour meticulously harnassing and brushing it, while people tried not to "bother" him but let the kids look at the horse.  Not only was it gorgeous, but even though it was very alert, it was very patient with all the people and wasn't at all spooked by the commotion around it.  Finally one family approached the man, and they clearly came to some sort of arrangement because the next thing I knew he'd started giving carriage rides around the wide, gravel walkway I take Ted around several times a day.  It was really lovely watching that horse just trot by; he glistened, had beautiful action, and carried his tail like a banner.  As you might imagine, after 1-2 laps of the park a crowd started to gather around the truck, and while the driver was arranging the next customers in the cart, the horse relaxed and was petted.  Ted was FASCINATED!

I hung out and watched the scene until about 7 when both Ted and I got pretty greedy for dinner.  It was hard to go in, though, but when it started pouring rain about 45 minutes later, I was hoping that everyone was able to shelter under the huge birch trees without too much problem.  Later when I took Ted for his evening constitutional, I loved watching the lights from all the neighboring buildings shining through the trees.  I kept thinking how lovely it would all look in the snow.

Everyone should have a park like this to watch.

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