Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Tree Without Shade

Before opening his door he leaned down and pulled the latch popping the trunk open. As he opened the door and climbed out of his seat he unlocked the back door. He reached in his back seat and took out a drill and screw driver. He then proceeded to the trunk. After a couple of minutes his early Christmas present was up and running. He had purchased a high end remote control car with a fuel driven engine. Apparently after some rough use he would periodically have to tighten a few pieces and adjust its suspension.

As the remote control car roared through the park people sitting would watch it fly by in amusement. One couple was enjoying Austin’s first glimpse of sun after a week’s stretch of ice and gloominess. They had a nice bottle of wine and reading material. They enjoyed each other’s company; whether it was conversation, sipping wine, or merely spending time together in the cool breeze.

The roar of the engine dissipated quickly as the remote controlled car dashed around the park in another lap. While the noise would come and go, its tire tracks remained in the moist dirt from the previous day’s drizzle. The noise was not too much of a bother for the couple sitting. In fact, it wasn’t any worse than the traffic on the near by road. Following the tracks of the car, its path steered clear of the couple and where they were sitting, yet roared by other tables not occupied.

The child in the tree across the way was amused as well by this neat little toy. While she would watch in awe as it sped by, sometimes on two wheels as it quickly made a sharp turn, she would otherwise climb the near by trees. On occasion you would hear her parent’s voice a concern: “be careful honey,” or “not so high.” The parents were seated nearby, the next best place without interfering with the couple who had settled down previously to enjoy a glass of wine. They had food spread out and were as well enjoying the evening. While they ate and talked, their child played on the near by tree.

It was interesting: just a simple object. All around it a dance ensued that took its location and availability into account. The picnic table near Zilker Park’s Moonlight tower spoke many silent words. It was nestled just under the shade of a tree where the warmth of the shadow’s edge and its location invited a young couple to enjoy the evening and claim it as their space. This sense of privacy, even in the openness of the park was understood by the driver of the toy car. The car would rip through most of the vacant areas, but steered clear of the picnic table that was being used. This sense of spatial claim seemed to be understood. And then there was the family of three. There were other places to sit closer to the couple who were reading and conversing, but like the car driver, they realized it was taken and that despite no written rule, they would naturally give them their needed space.


cjfranck said...

This particular narrative caught my attention because the object is actually something not regularly present in the landscape, and yet it has an undeniably strong effect on how the various inhabitants of the park interact with their environment. Most of our narratives have tended to focus on permanent fixtures of the urban fabric, but it is plain to see that these are not the only elements playing a role in determining social interaction.

ANE said...

This interested me because of the two aspects of the park. It is public space until a part of it becomes occupied, then does the small area surrounding the occupants become private. The private space, though understood, is still subjective. Most people have a pretty decent understanding of others' personal space. Sometimes, however, an object will interfere. Whether or not the remote control car interfered with the people at the park is only up to their interpretation. We as observers can make assumptions, but we can never really know until our own personal space is tested.

Kayla said...

This narrative shows the value of having public, open-use spaces within an urban environment. It tells the story of very different groups of people that are having memorable experiences allowed by the environment offered by Zilker Park. The comment about private spaces within a public space is very interesting. I think having these "neutral" public spaces encourages people to become closer to each other by creating their own sense of privacy in their actions.