I turned south on Lexington Avenue and through the familiar turns around the golf course. The club house I knew was there wasn't visible across the valley of the course. Trees, bare of their leaves or chunky in their evergreen sweaters hung like wraiths all around me. Over the one bridge, under the other, a turn to the right just past the hill and then along the one-way street. Don't look for the lake; that way lies madness.
I leave my car and walk past the building where they keep stars in cages of iron and glass that they might cast their glow on the bright, unnatural, yellow flowers. The stars look lonely, this far from their celestial abode. Dim where their cousins are bright. Perhaps they miss the lively banter of the nebulae, or the sparkling dances of the comets.
I've come to see the Japanese garden. A vulgar, chain-link gate bars my way and a sign informs me that the entrance is through the conservatory. The conservatory that is closed and won't be open until mist has risen. This won't do.
I hop the fence quickly and wander into the garden. I stay on the paths. I don't touch anything. I resist climbing down to where water would flow if this was summer. I stop at the places for stopping and admire the views. Benches are damp, so I squat beside them and look over this magnificent landscape in miniature as it disappears into the morning fog as if across great distance.
As I sit on my heels beside the last bench, a pair of squirrels play a game of tag among the fallen leaves. One runs past me. The second stops, drawn up short by the danger and opportunity a human presents. He eyes me nervously from a few feet away and then leaps up on the bench, keeping its full length between the two of us. I watch, silently amused as he gains his courage and begins to look as if he'd like a hand-out. When I move to show him I have nothing, however, he darts off under the nearest bush and looks back over his shoulder from the safety of half-way up a tree trunk.
I move around the curve of the path to where a simple gate of bamboo blocks it. Not to be stopped now, I step around it and down a path that, at first, looks as if it is meant to be and access for maintenance. At the end of the path, however, is the gate to the tea house. There are two signs on the gate. One with a symbol I do not recognize but that probably means "closed." The second swings crookedly from one bit of brass wire, its companion looped around the beam barring this gate but lacking hardware to connect to the sign. It says, prophetically, "Alarm will Sound."
Now, the bar to the gate is out of one of the pieces of iron meant to hold it and thus secure the gate. The gate hangs half way to half open, giving an impression of neglect unbefitting such a place. My curiosity is piqued and I begin looking about for how this alarm will be sounded. It's nothing like the lever-activated alarms on fire exits. There appear to be no wires attached to the gate at all. I look along the length of the bar and start looking at the frame of the gate itself when, in fact, the alarm goes off.
Never did see the mechanism and didn't touch anything so I'm guessing a motion sensor or a proximity monitor of some sort; putting my face too close may have triggered it. So I slunk back out of the garden expecting a challenging, "Hey, there!" that never came. I hopped back over the fence and was halfway back to my car when the alarm turned off.