My husband Steve and I were seated with a billionaire in a bustling restaurant in Paris years ago. (Oh yes, lovey, we do this all the time–ha ha just kidding.) I gazed at the man to see what exotica this creature would release, but I was treated to none. As soon as I heard he was always running here and there (meaning from one country to another) and hardly ever getting to see his family, my chaplain radar went up in disappointment. Not someone to envy after all. But something unusual was afoot in the restaurant itself. As we progressed from course to course, it grew more and more peaceful. As customers left, no fresh ones replenished them, even as it became closer to the peak hour. By the time we got to dessert,we were practically the only ones there except two gentleman and their dog at a nearby table. Steve told me later that the gentlemen were famous French actors, with the dog allowed to share their glory, and that the billionaire had arranged things so we could have the entire restaurant to ourselves!
It is rare indeed to have a desirable public place all to ourselves but it happened twice again to us all in the past two months. April first, we were strolling all over Branch Brook Park, which according to Wikipedia, “is noted for the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States, having over 5,000 in more than eighteen different varieties.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branch_Brook_Park Nope, the billionaire was not on hand to chase everyone out. Nor was it an unfavorable time to go. It was the height of the cherry blossom viewing season and the weather was spectacular. We hardly saw a soul, and as a healthy-looking gent who had logged many more years than us jogged past, he called out “enjoy it now, because tomorrow they’re gonna close-up the parks.” This was true, as the Corona virus restrictions were just then descending upon us in New Jersey. People were already scared to go, which made it supremely safe for us, with no people to steer 6 feet clear of. Just as astonishing, no litter blighted the trails. Bittersweet to have this fleeting privilege, self-denied by most, and starting the next day, externally denied to all..
On Memorial Day weekend, (May 23rd) again with no billionaire to work his magic, we found ourselves virtually alone as we walked through the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, which “is an internationally renowned garden…with more than 10,000 irises and 1,500 varieties.” https://www.visitnj.org/nj-arboretums-gardens/essex-county-presby-memorial-iris-gardens Like Branch Brook, it was just a short car trip away. No jostling to get in close to snap photos of rare varieties, no one trying to sell us some packets of iris seeds with the perfect iris depicted on the front, or greeting cards decorated with pastel iris drawings. Just a lone figure near the gate, keeping his distance, with a black mask on—a government employee? Yes, it was drizzling, but on a holiday weekend, and right around the peak time for viewing irises, and no one there? Lucky us, because of that, we did not even have to wear a mask.
Just a couple of weeks ago, parks had reopened,with a nest of restrictions but we figured open is open can’t be picky. As my husband and I wondered out of the park and onto a street nearby, we struck up a conversation with a mother and child. The child was looking at a discarded pipe that a chipmunk had just crawled into and who knows might deign to peep out of soon to say hello. Both park neighbors were glad of some brief company, human presence now highly prized. As we marveled on our solo experience at the park, the mother explained that it had just opened up two weeks ago, and lots of people did not know about that yet. Not wanting to linger overly long in case we had other unwanted company whose name has to do with crowns, we sauntered onwards, much to the regret of the child. I hope the chipmunk would come out for at least one more salutation to encourage her.
I normally would stop my post here, but perhaps that is not fair to leave you wondering what we were doing in the presence of that wealthy man. The answer is, my husband has a newsletter about investments, which the gent had subscribed to. They got together to “talk shop”. And if this further arouses your curiosity, my husband’s site is https://truecontrarian-sjk.blogspot.com/
May you, too, find enriching moments of unexpected glorious solitude in these confounding times.