Mill Creek Park
Right now, we live a few blocks from a large urban park. It mixes with our neighborhood at odd angles, so we can easily walk to areas not as well traveled by other visitors. The park also sits between us and a lot of the places that daily life takes us, so we have to drive around it. Even so, I do take the occasional detour through the park, whether or not it makes me a little slower. Oddly enough, I don’t seem to drive out through the park- always on the way home.
I remember one of those stop-and-smell-the-roses parables from my youth that told of a man who would arrive home from work at the end of every day. Before he went inside, he paused and touched the old oak tree in front of his house. Each morning, he touches the huge tree on his way to his car. One day, an observant neighbor asks him what’s up with the daily tree touching. The man explains that he always leaves his work burdens with the tree so he can fully enjoy his home life. Each morning, he picks up his work burdens and finds them just a little lighter.
An awful lot of lesson stories fall into the well of cloying, which is why we have James Thurber. Having established my cynicism, the reality is that a lot of those stories we hear in our youth stay with us. We re-craft them with the hard won lessons that life throws at us.
One of the privileges
of growing up in Youngstown was being so near to Mill Creek Park. It was more than an easy stroll away, but a kid on a bike had no trouble reaching it. We got lost and found ourselves on its paths. We climbed trees and boulders. Exploration fired our imaginations. The park hosted more picnics and games than I can recall. We learned to golf at the Par 3 course. We learned to drive by staying on the road along its winding and confusing turns.
Decades ago, I moved away from Youngstown, but had occasion to return quite a bit over the years. Anyone who found themselves in a car that I was driving can vouch for that strange look that would come over me. Before any objections could be raised, I would steer us into the woods, confident in finding our way out-perhaps not exactly closer to our destination.
As time passes, the lesson of that man with his old oak tree has proven to be less about burdens and making your local flora suffer. My takeaway has turned out to be the renewing power of nature. That should be obvious to any creature that has not forgotten how integral the outdoors is to our existence.
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