i’m gonna marry the night
As I am a night owl, I have wanted to go to my park at night. The Walled Garden at Mellon Park has an art installation, built by Janet Zweig, that commemorates the birthday of Ann Katherine Seamans, a woman who frequented the park. I’m not sure why this woman had a restoration, and then an art installation, dedicated to her, but clearly she was important in some way. In the large grassy area in the middle of the park, Janet Zweig installed small lights in the pattern of the constellations as they were in the sky on the night Seamans was born — pretty awesome, isn’t it? I had wanted to see the light installation at night since I had first heard about it months ago, but I never seemed to have the chance to get to the park at night.
I had the time. I had the schedule — as I said, I’m a night owl. What I didn’t have, though, was the courage. I am, and have always been, a scaredy-cat. Mellon Park is in Shadyside, an affluent neighborhood in Pittsburgh. It’s well-lit. It’s just a few blocks from my house, and the walk to the park follows one of the main thoroughfares in the city, so it’s always quite busy with traffic, both the automobile and the pedestrian kind. I’m very visibly a male. And yet, I still found myself afraid to go to the park alone at night. This is perhaps an aside, but I think it’s a curious phenomenon, this fear of going into nature because of mankind. It reminds me of an essay by Heather Couturier, “For All the Girls Who Couldn’t Walk into the Woods,” primarily about women’s fear of men. I am not a woman, and I do not fear men — I fear mankind in general, not only the collective group of us who hurt and destroy our planet and its people but also the individuals, men or women, who hurt each other, privately or very publicly.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the park. I had a friend in town and some spare time, so off we went. It was a Wednesday around 9 PM, a brisk 37 degrees Fahrenheit, but my hoodie was enough to keep me warm. That park was deserted and surprisingly dark. The ramps up to the Walled Garden were completely unlit, but we had the light of the moon to guide us. Once inside the Walled Garden proper, I was instantly disappointed — there were no stars in the grass! At least, none that were lit. Perhaps they only spent the money on electricity during the summer months or special events. I was disheartened, but I carried on. The other fixtures of my park that I’ve come to love where there — my weeping pine, my fountain, my grassy field. I stood in front of my fountain, just at the start of the field, and spread out my arms, looked to the moon, and breathed deeply. If I were a wolf, I would have howled.
I have always loved the night. I’m not afraid of it in the slightest. To me, the night is a blanket, a cover wrapped around me. I’m slightly agoraphobic, and the night helps tighten those wide open spaces. Of course, that cover is a double-edged sword, as it allows the bad men and women I mentioned earlier a better shroud in which to do their bad men and women things. But there were no bad men here, just me and my friend, and the night was beautiful. The park was beautiful, even more beautiful than it is during the day. I wanted to take pictures.
So I took pictures. But they were all absolutely dreadful. Without my flash, everything was too dark to see, even with the moonlight. With my flash, everything looked washed out and as if it were going through some sort of rough-light inquisition. Ultimately, I got my friend to use his phone to create a little bit of light on my targets, and that worked the best, but it’s still not good. I suppose I am not a photographer, although I did try to get artsy by taking a picture of some slatted tables and chairs. I thought the shadows would create an intriguing effect… and perhaps they would, if I were a real photographer who positioned them correctly, got the right lighting, had an actual camera and not a silly iPhone 7 Plus. But who knows?
As we were leaving, my friend did find some flowers floating in the fountain. I’m not sure how I missed them — it was an eye-opener to me, because I had been so intent on photographing the beauty of the night I’d missed the most beautiful thing there, flowers floating right under my nose. So I took a few photographs, none of which came out to my liking. But at least I have them, and I suppose a lower quality memory is better than no memory at all. These will trigger the memories I have locked away in my head, and provided I don’t lose my mind — which, nowadays, is no easy task — I’ll always be able to remember them that way in all their glory.