Wilson Park of Minnetonka, a small, unassuming place tucked in between wooded areas and the neighborhood street a short distance from my house. For the last 30 years, I have been taking my morning walk rain or shine cold or hot. In the summer, I stop by the mulberry tree on my way there, taste its fruits (tute), an old childhood favorite. The park brought a few neighbors together, with their kids and dogs, having weather and dog’s conversation, wondering about dogs’ names, breeds, and eating habits. Park visitors played tennis, soccer, basketball, and baseball or just walked with their dogs. Sitting on one of the few benches there doing nothing, watching the world goes by, as an Egyptian born, we have mastered the art of sitting. The gray bench was by the tennis court and, through the years, brought people together, families, friends rested on it, lovers had their first kiss on it. Kids and dogs took comfort released themselves by it. The gray bench listens quietly to lots of stories, kept lots of secrets, never complained, and always willing to listen since the lockdown and social distancing regiment Amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Life in the park slowly changes; silence loomed over the ark. People stopped coming, dogs and kids vanished, no more joyously plays, or random noise, all but disappeared. The parking lot has no cars, the playground without kids to play, the tennis court without tennis, and the basketball hoop without swishing hope. The gray bench, like everything else in the park, was abandoned and ignored, left alone unappreciated—a vivid reminder of how the pandemic has shaken our lives to the core.
One day as the spring was breaking in, the sun was out, the gray treas started sprouting their small pods, and the grass got greener. On a cool morning, as I’m taking my morning walk. I glimpsed through the empty park landscape. I realized something different, something I have not seen for days and weeks. The gray bench by the tennis court seems lively and excited, not alone anymore. I slowly approached the gray bench; there, I found a doll sitting on it. The baby doll was a girl wearing a big blue hat and dressed up as if it was waiting for a date.The enormous hat has covered her blond braided hair and face. Did someone forgot his/her doll, or left it there. I walk by the gray bench every day, now seemed lively, and contented its joy-filled the landscape. The doll was still there alone and untouched. That day, the head was tilted down a bit, getting closer to the bench as they were having a conversation.
One day another doll showed up, sitting on the gray bench next to the young doll girl. It was a monkey doll with a pacifier stuck in its mouth. A few days later, a few dolls started sprouting on other benches in the park, different sizes, different looks, and different stories. I pulled my phone, and without thinking, I took one picture of the doll on the gray bench capturing the frozen moment. I have been haunted by the mystery of the doll in the park that is sitting on the gray bench. For the last few weeks, I have been taking a pictorial diary of the doll on the bench. I stand before the gray bench, take the same picture from the same spot, capturing the same image. This is the diary as it was speaking to me by these images of the gray bench. This is the diary of the gray bench in the park when everyone left except a doll.
The first day, April 10, it was sunny, crisp spring morning, after being alone and abandoned for a long time, a doll came and resting on me., a young girl, alone, with a colorful dress, and a big blue hat. Not abanded or forgotten anymore…!!
April 13, a second doll came along a monkey doll with a pacifier, set quietly, have two friends now.
April 14, the two dolls kept there social distancing enforced, ..20 centimeters,
April 16, a gray day, a few sprinkling was coming out of the sky, the park is gloomy that day, the first girl doll tilted its head down, getting tired, needed to be touched. The monkey doll unmoved.
April 18, the girl doll left its head back up and entirely awake. The monkey doll still in its first positions, sucking on the pacifier.
April 23, there was a stick on the girl doll lap, sticking together, I hope.
Days went by, without noticeable changes,
April 24, Friday morning 930a, the dolls attracted a carious dog.,
there was another doll sitting on another bench, then another, and another.
doll_in_the_park, Saturday, April 25, both dolls are holding the stick between them, sticking together!
Sunday, April 26..10a, a gray day nothing changed that much..still sitting quietly..!
Monday, April 27, it was Ramadan, a Ramadan lantern, came to keep the spirit.
April 29. Wednesday 9 am gray, cold morning.
The dolls are sitting bored, perhaps. .a dog walking by, uninterested, but the grass is greener.
April 29. Wednesday at 9 am. .another doll showed up on another benchtop of the hill, the life in the park slowly is coming back