A Walk in the Park

I love parks. Any park. I always feel welcome in its green embrace whenever the concrete and noise of urban life become too much. Wherever I travel, I always search out at least one park to visit. It is here that I can forget that I am traveller and feel at home for a breath or two.

Fleeing the constrictive walls of our hotel room and the glaring of my computer screen, I sought out the open gardens of Al Jahili Park in Al Ain. Here I could fill my lungs with, perhaps imagined, fresh air and rest my eyes on the beauty of the well laid out park with its meandering paths and many soothing water features.

On this morning the park had a special present for me in the form of a joyous and unexpected encounter with two little girls. The park is dotted with playgrounds where mothers gather to share a picnic, while their children run around and play with an abandon that only the cooler winter months bring. As I approached one of these play areas, two little girls of about 3 and 5 years old ran towards me with smiling faces and shining eyes. The oldest eagerly held out a little hand, and as I returned the gesture by shaking her hand, the little one eagerly copied her sister. What followed was a one-sided conversation spilling from my lips, but as I waved goodbye, they reciprocated with waves and smiles, before rushing off for a new adventure. The encounter brought a smile to my heart and a lightness to my being.

I found a stone bench in the shade, close to the fort, where turtle doves were cooing and only the occasional pedestrian strolled past. Here I amused myself by watching a family of cats explore their territory, before taking shelter in a tree they clearly use as their home.

Time seems to pass a little bit slower here; fending off the ‘busy-ness’ of life effectively. People seem to walk with a leisurely gait, pausing a little longer. There is time for idle chatter and daydreams. Children have ample opportunity to explore their surroundings, shedding some of their excess energy. And when it is time to leave, there are drawn-out goodbyes before heading home to responsibilities and duties. Parks are special in that they can help one forget about the pressing matters of life, and allow one to simply inhale the moment, slowing down the thoughts constantly demanding attention, and stand outside of one’s own life for a moment to simply play witness to the ebb and flow of life in general.

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