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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE:Exploring Brooklyn, homesick for Laguna

“Wherever you go, there you are.” -- Jon Kabat-Zinn

The past two weekends in Brooklyn have warmed up for the inhabitants, sending them into the streets with smiles on their faces and an unhurried gait.

Fifth Avenue — reminding me much of an old-time Laguna before high rents and when there was greater variety — is crowded with families and individuals. A certain gaiety prevails. This is not the same city the work-week presents.

Saturday, I started out on a day of exploration, determined to walk as much of this borough as I could manage. I began with some errands that I had put off and then treated myself to a soy chai tea latte before setting out in earnest.

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Springtime weather had brought out the fat, colored chalk and there were finished and half-finished pieces of children’s art on the sidewalks along my chosen route. Prospect Park — another spot where I was sure I would see many children at play — was my first destination.

On an earlier trip last spring, I had visited this beautiful park, designed by the same Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux who had designed Central Park. My visit then, with my son-in-law, Patrick, and year-and-a-half old Christian, had given me just a glimpse of this magnificent park.

With 585 acres in the heart of urban Brooklyn, Prospect Park has the only forest land in Brooklyn, with stunning growth of a wide variety of trees and shrubs.

The Alliance that was formed in 1987 to preserve and protect the park has replaced many of the diseased and dying trees and plant life, and the park maintains its lush beauty today, home to a variety of wildlife, including thousands of migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway.

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I was disappointed that I would not be able to see these birds this early in the season, especially given the extreme cold we have been experiencing here recently. Another time, perhaps.

Prospect Park also boasts the Long Meadow — an unbroken stretch of 90 acres that was once home to grazing sheep. Today, there are many family groups, sauntering youth, and clusters of older folks, all eager and excited to be outside again. In summer the New York Philharmonic puts on concerts at the Bandshell. Soon there will be picnicking and Little League, too.

The watercourses in the park are all man-made and connect, culminating in Prospect Lake. Boating, fishing, and other water activities take place here as well as those aforementioned migratory bird sightings.

Today, these waterways will have to wait as I have set other explorations for myself as well. With three weeks remaining of my adventure here, I am sure I will return. And if this weather holds, perhaps there will be some bird sightings to report then.

For now, I head down 16th Street toward Fifth Avenue. I have groceries to buy and I just want to mingle with the masses in the rare — to me — urban setting.

One thing about my visit to Prospect Park that I had not anticipated has been that I found myself missing the walks along Laguna’s local beaches. This is such a wonderful time of year there, with almost daily sightings of porpoise and whales, swooping pelicans and laughing sea gulls.

I also want to visit the Audubon Center at Lullwater, about midpoint on the watercourses, which opened in 2002 at the historic boathouse. And there are the skating rink and the carousel and Lefferts Historic House and more. Yes, I will return.

I guess I am a little homesick, in spite of the wonders of this great adventure and the coming of new life in the form of my new grandson, Hank Aaron Aison.

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Adventures abound, and I will follow the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, but no matter where I go, a part of my heart will always remain in the paradise of Laguna.


  • CHERRIL DOTY is a creative living coach, writer and artist who lives and works in Laguna Beach. She can be reached at emmagine@cox.net or by phone at (949) 251-3883.

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