Memorial Day Weekend 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
On a Sunday morning when I had finished my 6 o’clock coffee and was headed over the mountain to downtown Nyack, N.Y., I saw this fellow and his dog, the man maybe 60, the collie 5-6. Both had left their pick-up truck on Clausland Mt. Road and were bent for one of the trails in this park area, once an artillery range for the World War I National Guard deliberately named Camp Bluefields since it wasn’t then PC to say Camp Blauvelt, after the Dutch-German hamlet where it was located.
The fellow looked awfully happy, serene even, and his dog caught the rhythm. You saw it in their synchronized walk. The man had a container of java in his hand. He and the faithful companion, or maybe it was the collie and his faithful companion, were in for a quiet, contemplative Sunday morning respite, away from the week’s rigors and worries. Didn’t take more than a glance to know their story. Calmed me, too.
Arriving in Nyack, I parked the car and got my own second helping of coffee at a Broadway shop and then headed to the observation pier built in Memorial Park to peer at the bridge across the Hudson River. The second one at Nyack-Tarrytown that built/builds the suburbs. It was a respite for me, but I was not alone. Any park has its regulars, and they were there again on this weekend morning — the older couple looking at the water; two fishermen; more men and dogs, some women and dogs, too; a police officer on a coffee break; a young skate-boarder; and a woman, perhaps 20, scanning a smart phone but taking long moments to gaze into the distance. Not sure if her romantic life was involved, though that seemed to be the energy.
So, short respites for maybe 20 people in just two locations over a few miles on a Sunday morning in one smallish American hamlet and nearby village. If this were an American symphony by Aaron Copland, it would be notes on the common man, common woman and the rhythm of the downtime, the respite.
On the ride back from Memorial Park, on Memorial Day Weekend, past the Great War training ground, I suddenly realized why the day was so blessedly ordinary but so special in being that. The fallen in our wars – those who sacrificed their lives – gave us this day, now this Memorial Day Weekend and every other chance to hear the music of America in its people, places and things.
We owe them all.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org This essay is adapted from an earlier version.