A Perfect Moment

Aquatic Park in Berkeley is not one of my favorite places for a walk. While it might appear serene and picturesque from a distance–with its wide stripe of water and green borders–it’s a bit seedy and run down up close, its walkways muddy and often full of litter, and the water very polluted. But this is Covid, and in search of sparsely populated trails, my friend and I found ourselves in Aquatic Park.

We walk together each Wednesday morning, so the first quarter hour or so is filled with catching up—though these days, we don’t have much to catch up on. Covid limits our activities, making one week blend seamlessly into the next. But we always have bits of news about grandchildren to share, as well as our deepening frustration at having to keep our distance from them. This particular morning, I reported preparing duck breast and roasted Brussel sprouts on Zoom with my nine-year-old granddaughter, and my friend told me about baking corn bread and a sweet potato dish on Zoom, with her grandsons in Santa Fe.

As we walked and talked, we looked occasionally toward the water, where hundreds of small ducks had congregated and were floating silently, forming a peaceful flotilla on the water’s surface. Every once in a while a cyclist tinkled a bell and passed us heading south.

Then all of a sudden, a two-person skull appeared and caught our attention. “Oh my!” we exclaimed, as we watched the white skull glide through the water, the four oars leaving four frothy circles alongside the boat, which trailed a tail of small waves.

During this time of Covid, you don’t often see two people working intimately together in public. But these two rowers were in perfect synch, sitting high, knees bent toward their chest, stroking in perfect unison—a choreography of catch, drive, finish, recovery, catch, drive, finish, recovery—bodies bending forward, then leaning back as if one.

“It’s a symphony of motion,” my friend exclaimed, her voice tinged with awe.

All art forms had combined to create the spectacle before our eyes: the sunlight striking the water and the rowers at the perfect angle, the boat gliding as the rowers’ arms floated from first to second position, the soft swish of the oars striking the water, the white boat against the dark water, all under the blue dome of the sky.

It was a vision very real and at the same time outside of time, a perfect moment of perfect beauty, despite the litter around us and the polluted water, in the midst of the shelter-in-place deprivations and the flattening of days and hours, during Covid.

Bridge in Albion

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