I'd noticed these curiously angled tree stumps but pegged them as nothing more than a curious anomaly, and nothing else had particularly caught my eye:
Springtime made these blossoming trees a pleasant sight, so I snapped this photo, not noticing the leftward bend of the tree at the right of the stand.
The following photo seemed like a pretty standard shot, the kind I like to take to give a sense of perspective and the size of the park. Sure, there's a kid running to the left, and a couple of the trees are leaning a little bit that way, but these didn't seem remarkable in themselves.
But take a look at the image that struck me when I first entered the park. Leaving aside the question of what kind of animal this is – an otter? a beaver? a fanciful seal with a land-animal tail? something else? – I'm wondering why the garbage pail was knocked over in this otherwise fairly well maintained six-acre park, with its playground, ball courts, trees, pathways, and modest hill.
An answer to the mystery suggested itself only after I exited the park and spotted this shrine, with the inscription: "No Farewell Words Were Spoken, No Time To Say Goodbye, You Were Gone Before We Knew It, And Only God Knows Why." It hangs across the street from the park, on the fence that keeps you from tumbling down into the Gowanus Expressway gully.
Had someone fallen onto the highway somehow, in spite of the high fence? Or was the memorial to a victim of an auto accident? No way of knowing, but one thing was for sure: the juxtaposition of high McKinley Park with the Expressway-in-a-Ditch had created a tachyonic dimensional vortex that was pulling the trees, the trash cans, the nameless memorialized person, probably even the children towards the highway. That explained why the fence had to be so high. It explained the two stumps, the remains of trees that had bent over so far they had started to freak out the park-going populace and had to be cut. It explained the toppled trash can, and the leaning trees. It certainly explained the fact that whichever direction I faced, things were leaning to the left.
It's Occam's razor, see. The simplest explanation is probably the correct one. Honestly, I don't know how I didn't see it right away.