Saturday, August 6, 2011

Carousels and Cotton Candy

And the seasons, they go round and round,/ And the painted ponies go up and down./ We're captive on the carousel of time

~ Joni Mitchell

Today, I saw a girl with a cone of cotton candy that was twice as big as her head. She and I shared a smile as we both delighted in the soft airy mound rising from her hand. I enjoy the way cotton candy looks more than the way it tastes; I appreciated the chance to take in the view.

I'd driven up to Tilden Park in Berkeley with a friend and we ended up at the carousel. Sitting on a bench having a soda, I recalled to my friend that when I was eighteen I had an idea about getting married on a carousel. Later, we discovered that on the other side of the carousel, caterers were setting up a wedding reception and towards the later afternoon, we'd see the bridesmaids and groomsmen make their way up the hill.

I like the innocence of the carousel, though of course, I can't deny the dark side of carnivals or the use of carousels in films, such as near the closing of Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." But today, in the context of a strikingly gorgeous regional park in the Berkeley Hills, the feeling of the day was one of lightness. I stood, with my ticket in hand, waiting for the ride to slow and making a careful choice of the animal I wanted to ride. I ended up choosing a rooster and my friend rode the frog by my side. We were the only two adults actually on animals on the ride--the others stood by the sides of their children, holding them up.

For the past month, I've been out of town on weekends, missing the chance to go horseback riding at a colleague's house, but I've been reading about equine-assisted psychotherapy and wondering about whether it might help me through the recently re-engaged traumas of my past. It's no wonder I'm attracted to the steady predictability of the carousel animals. They stay in place, go up and down to the music, and are sturdy and heavy. They will always be right where you expect them, doing exactly what they've done--in the case of the Tilden Park Carousel--for the last 100 years.

It's going to be quite an adjustment to learn to lean on creatures less predictable than the carousel horse, to learn their patterns within the herd, and to learn to ask for what I need from them.

At some point, I'll have to stop floating atop the dreamy clouds of cotton candy and come to rest in reality, but today, I get to live in the dream, at least for the afternoon.

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