1. In the course of my absence, the park had entered a mid-summer phase of suffocating, verdant beauty. I kept asking myself how it was even possible, despite being aware that "it" could mean many things: the landscape, the passage of time (and, more disturbing, my place in it), the russet-tinged flowers of the oakleaf hydrangea.
2. I regretted the weeks that I had missed while nursing an injury. I felt a little delinquent, as if these flowers were putting on a talent show for a parent who failed to arrive. (I didn't really feel this way.)
3. Plants (and cats, and my vintage t-shirt collection) are the closest I'll ever get to raising (human) children. The cats depend on me, as do some of the plants in our garden, but I know that the flowers in the park are ambivalent (not to mention unsentient -- probably?) , which is what makes them all the more perfect.
4. Every few months I skim though a trending article in The Times in which people with children are mystified by those who don't have them, or people who don't have children are mystified by the scrutiny they (we, but especially straight women, and even more especially those who are married) receive from those who do. One of the biggest flaws of our society is the unrelenting desire of those in the majority to get those in the minority to conform. People in the majority have rarely faced scrutiny or hard choices about expressing who they are -- they've never had to check a box that says "please explain" -- which can be a recipe for insecurity and judgment of others who are different. The message of the majority is: "You can see that I'm perfect. Why don't you want to be like me?" And they get confused and angry when someone says, "Actually, I don't want to be like you. And why do you even care?" It's not a question they can answer without resorting to cheap tricks like "God" or "history."
5. The solution to this problem is clear: everyone needs to spend more time in parks, where it's possible to learn that there are many paths, all different, but equally beautiful and valid.