Delaware Park, Buffalo
The most significant and massive intrusion onto Omsted's design occurred about 1960, when an expressway was extended across the park, separating it into two sections and bringing the roar of traffic into the heart of the park. As a part of the construction, significant portions of the park lake were filled. The lake, long suffering from upstream pollution, became little more than an open sewer, and retained little of its Olmsted shoreline. 1989-2007 Stanton M. Broderick
With each step around Delaware Lake, I feel their presence. With the ground squishy with moisture, as I walk, my uncle’s face appears. Like when I was a child back from a day out, he asks me what I have seen. “A rabbit? A fox?’ And as if such things were possible in the city, I vigorously shake my head. Crossing a grove of trees I relive all the trips to the hospital for chemo, my mother clutching a plastic container she vomits into. Five years of pain see me through high school and give me the possibility of escape.
Yet I can recover great pleasure too. I find my first love again, Daniel, who resembled a Rafael painting of Jesus. We lay on a rooftop or under a blanket on the living room floor for hours pulsating to the universe. His scent acrid like a farmhand’s remains.
Each moist step forgives and brings back the past. My father worked at Dunlop Tire and Rubber. Asbestos filled his lungs leaving him on mood altering steroids and an asthma inhaler. The delicacy of his peeling my fruit, mending my clothes, and finishing my home ec projects contrasted sharply with the bouts of rage that erupted from nowhere and found me shaking in silence.
This city provided a frame to my existence, the years when I was so shy as to be unable to speak. The heritage of an immigrant past meant you were taught not to stand out, since such pride could lead to a trip to Siberia. On my return I find the remains of that person who had no way to construct the boundaries needed just to survive. I could flow into the rivulets that empty into the lake, a motionless expanse of water.
The memory resides in my blood, in my Latvian family heritage. The Balts inhabited their white winter landscape and the endless sunlight of summer. This verge of spring fills each cell with longing.
Across the street, I gravitate to the anonymity of the local university library, doubting I can still pass for a student. The clock chimes the quarter hours as definitively as the local cathedral in the Spanish town I inhabited for so many years. The chimes mark my inability to focus. Another fifteen minutes and my mind is still racing, facing the blank page in front of me. From the window, the grey sky is the color of a Paris winter where buildings and air meld together.
The old me, who I thought I’d squelched so long ago resurfaces. In my dream I am lying in bed. The doctor comes to visit but turns out to be my French dentist. He examines me and tells me the problem is my heart. I walk outside to find giant snowflakes filling the night sky. Can I return to this place and recover my heart?