A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884, 1884/86
In his best-known painting, Georges Seurat depicted people relaxing in a suburban park on an island in the Seine River called La Grande Jatte. If you ignore the sartorial choices of that time, this could easily be a modern-day depiction of New York City’s Central Park (or insert your local park) on any sunny Sunday – people alone or with family or friends and/or pets, taking a slow meandering boat ride, riding bicycles or roller blades, playing baseball or tennis, or reading a book, or having a picnic, or having a conversation or simply gazing at the beautiful surroundings. Happily things are a lot less formal now so one can enjoy their outing in ease and comfort, although it wasn’t so very long ago that even in New York people dressed up. For example here is a picture of my mom on the swings circa 1946:
Or me and my Dad – even though he played full court basketball in the appropriate shorts and tee-shirt well into his 70’s – a walk in the park still called for a vest and tie!
What could be more wonderful to be, as so eloquently put in “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám” (translated Persian poems written by Omar Khayyám :
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
I was very lucky to grow up within walking distance of a fabulous park in Brooklyn – and spent a great deal of my years there. As you can see here I was into sports at a very young age:
There was even a small equestrian facility – actually just a couple of ponies and a patch of sand fenced off into a circle – still loved it:
As a teenager I was adept at getting up at the crack of dawn year round, scarfing down breakfast, grabbing my tennis racket and racing to the park to play tennis and racquetball until sunset
Frankly the early departure from home was also to avoid washing the previous evening’s dishes that had been left to soak overnight (no dishwashing machine). Somehow there was this unwritten rule that as long as I was gone before my mother woke up – I wouldn’t be in trouble.
It wasn’t always high energy activity – sometimes I actually sat still for a few moments as in this rare photo of me and my brother – if you will recall from this post Billy wasn’t fond of hanging with his little sister:
However in general I was always moving – sometimes the need was so great I was ready to climb fences:
Whatever the activity – I think “hanging in the park” is universal which provides great insight into the heart and soul of humanity; that no matter where we are or what our status, we all crave moments such as this. And this held true during my visit to China a number of years ago with only the actual activities giveaway to my whereabouts.
China has a profusion of spectacular parks, many of which were originally built only for royalty, but now are public parks. One of these is part of the Tian Tan Complex (or Temple of Heaven) one of the largest temple complexes in China. This has quite an ancient history being built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The park is expansive and every morning it is filled with people enjoying their daily rituals which in many cases are striking and so much fun to watch – and listen to. For example, this group of “youngsters” gather every day to sing Chinese folk songs:
This charming man went a step further as he was a former performer in the Beijing Opera Theater:
These singers welcomed listeners, both local and foreign such as myself. Musicians also played for our enjoyment and in contrast to many seen in the States, did not solicit donations:
Here is a game which is very similar to dominoes:
Of course Tai Chi is very popular – and although I don’t have pics from home – it is also a growing activity in my hometown:
In Tian Tan, however Tai Chi movements are sometimes done with weapons to aid balance and concentration. This simple sword form has 50 different movements:
Ballroom dancing had its followers as couples joined together to practice their steps:
Here is sight you DEFINITELY don’t see everyday – I am not even sure what it is called – Ribbon dancing?
As in our country, many people brought their pets – but rather than dogs ( i am not taking the obvious route here) there seemed to be a penchant for bringing their birds out for an airing:
This artist drew his works of calligraphy using just a wet brush – how poignant that these beautiful brushstrokes were ephemeral:
To bring this post full circle, sometimes you just want to hang:
And enjoy the view: