As the sun was starting its below-horizon test firing, I stumbled sleepily across Av. Libertador and into my morning routine. Ahead of me, the parks of Palermo were covered in a wispy, teasing fog that removed the bases of trees while leaving their tops; cut legs off heroic monuments; and threw light back at the streetlamps which at that hour were still lit. Seeing such things is just one more reason why one should rise early, I told myself. Later, when the sun was already well on its way and the streetlamps had been snuffed out, I went back home to write about what I had seen.
There is nothing like fog to impart mystery to a scene, as any film noir director knows. Even Palermo — comfortable, well-known Palermo — with its lawns worn by soccer matches, littered by weekend picnickers and its woods the refuge of teenage lovers not to mention an entire contingent of people who would otherwise be homeless – even that well-trod Palermo became mysterious like it must have been in the days when it was still a swamp and not a manicured and much-loved urban plaything.
Only those who dwell in the city between apartment walls and asphalt by-ways can fathom the affection that grows up between a park and its neighbors. Once a visitor from abroad called our park “grungy” to my face and I still have not forgiven the slight. I never doubted that she was mistaken: how could a place that has brought me such peace and good health and is itself so full of vigor ever be called “grungy”?
Once, following a very heavy rain, I was riding through the park on a horse (yes, a horse; there are hundreds of them residing there in the riding clubs). The rains as usual had turned the flat, low-lying land into a world of ponds. Soon they would be the ideal incubator for mosquitoes if the weather rose a few degrees. Suddenly my horse stopped short, as surprised as I was to see an enormous frog sitting in proprietary splendor at the edge of one of the newly-minted ponds. It was a pond that had not existed the day before and would seep away in a day or two, but it already had its own frog. And around me, judging by the croaking, all those other ponds had their own frogs too. Where had they come from? Had they, like the rain, fallen from the sky?
Our frog sat there looking at us in a huff, his throat filling as if he were about to say something of great importance – but then that pompous throat deflated, and he kept his thoughts to himself.
We picked our way gingerly through that watery landscape, trying our best not to upset the new inhabitants. We moved on and soon their croaking was behind us; but it seemed to get louder the further away we got, as if they could at last talk freely, undisturbed, pond to pond.