. . . for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Philippians 4:11 ESV
After lunch, we three take our cameras and head to a favourite park.
First stop is the butterfly garden. It is awash with colourful blossoms—the tall, old-fashioned, hollyhocks the most prominent among them. Gerry and I wander and snap photos. I love the meditative practice, and the peace that falls when our attention is given opportunity to settle on the here and now and the beauty of creation.
It’s not quite the same quiet we usually enjoy here—Ladybug Girl is concerned about the busy bees that are everywhere and thinks it’s time for us to move on—but it’s sweet all the same in a different way.
In time, we pile into the car, and Gerry drives a short way to the other side of the park and pulls into the parking lot. I don’t notice him at first, but there’s a man sitting in a camp chair in the shade behind his car reading a book.
Makiya is off and running toward the place where marmots live and we follow behind. I leave my camera in the car. I’m interested in shooting flowers and there are none here, we’re not going far and the car is in sight at all times so I’m not concerned with leaving it.
For me, this is a place in the park for imagination and fancy, rather than photography. I watch as my granddaughter tries to entice one of the marmots to come closer. I sit on a bench and look out at the river through the trees on the bank—it’s beautiful here.
And I think about that solitary man reading a book in the shade of the parking lot.
The park is quiet today. It’s a contrast to the busyness of the larger downtown park and part of why I appreciate this space so much. On weekends in the spring and fall, the parking lots will be full and the fields will be noisy and busy with soccer and baseball games. Now, on a hot afternoon in July when many who frequent the place then are busy with other pursuits, it is peaceful here.
I wonder about the story of the man with book. Maybe he lives in an apartment-style condominium and doesn’t have a quiet yard to sit in, so chooses to come to the park to spend a summer afternoon reading. Maybe he lives in a small house in a noisy neighbourhood and prefers the peace of the park to wile away an afternoon lost in a book.
There’s something about the simplicity of him sitting on a camp chair behind his car reading that I can’t let go of.
He doesn’t need the noisy motor boats and jet skis that assault the peace at the other, larger park. He doesn’t need a smart phone and ear buds and music that blocks out the sound of nature. He doesn’t need to be doing, he’s content with just being right here and right now on this quiet summer afternoon.
Maybe I’m reminded of my dad who spent a good number of summer afternoons, shirtless and slathered with suntan lotion, sitting in a lawn chair with a Louis L’Amour paperback.
Maybe I’m just curious about the backstory.
Or maybe I just appreciate the simplicity of an afternoon spent not needing much of anything in order to be content.
Gerry beckons, and Makiya runs toward us. I glance over at the man who takes a paper bag over to the trash can. He returns to his car and pours a container of (what I assume is) water out on the grass.
Gerry says the magic words “ice cream”and our party of three heads toward our car. I reach for my car door handle as the man comes around to the driver side of his car. We nod at one another and say hello.
We head to McDonald’s to get caramel sundaes, and Ladybug Girl chatters in the back seat, and I’m still thinking about the simple gift of sitting in a camp chair in a quiet park on a summer afternoon reading a book.
And, later, as we sit on a riverbank with our sundaes, chatting and laughing, I think about what a sweet gift contentment is.