One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
— Robert Frost, “Birches”
The park lives a short distance from our house.
I remember the city creating it out of an empty stretch of dirt about twenty years ago. They planted saplings, seeded lawns. There wasn’t much else. I don’t think it had a jungle gym.
“No hope for this,” I said to Nora when we took a walk there.
I didn’t like how open it seemed, how you could see the surrounding boulevards while walking the lawns. I didn’t like hearing cars. It was better than empty lots, but only just.
We forgot about the park for the first decade of its life. Then Nick was born, and soon after we began strolling with him around the neighborhood. I remembered the park. One day Nick and I found our way there.
Someone had known what s/he was doing.
Lines of grown-up trees now ringed the place. The grass sloped upward as it approached the perimeter. From the middle of the park, you couldn’t see the city–just grass, trees, and sky.
Some areas opened out, almost like meadows. Tree-lined paths wound their way through them. The park had tennis courts, picnic tables, basketball courts, a soccer field, a recreation building with a pool. Jungle gyms with swings.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
Nick looked at me.
“I was apologizing to the trees,” I said. “Did you know you could talk to trees?”
That was the beginning. Afterwards, every time we visited the park, we conversed with them.
“Hello, Nick,” the first tree would say. “I’m so glad you’re back. I’ll tell the others.”
The tree made the announcement on the tree-intercom.
“Everyone, look sharp. Nick is back. Nick! It’s really him!”
Perhaps Nick knew it was my voice, cleverly altered for tree-speech. But he never let on.
“May I have a hug?” said the tree.
Nick wrapped his arms around the trunk.
“I love you, Nick. You must go visit my brothers and sisters and friends and give them all a hug.”
So we did.
As Nick learned to talk, he began to answer the trees back.
“Tell me your story,” Nick would say.
The tree would recount its history. How it began as a little sapling. How it was lonely at first, and no one came to the park. How glad it was when the first bird nested in its branches, how its brothers and sisters and friends joined it. How it became something large.
I remember the day Nick climbed out of his stroller and took off on his own through the grass. I remember his first time on a swing, his first trip down a slide. I remember picnics and rocket launches and swims in the pool. The time he let go of the kite and almost lost it and cried. The day he first rode his two wheeler.
Eight years is a long time to be coming to a park. As Nick grows in years, the park seems to go with him. We visit now on our bikes. He likes to ride at night down the paths.
“Hello trees,” he says.
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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Birches — The poem by Robert Frost
Frederick Law Olmsted — Central Park? Prospect Park? Designed by this guy. The first 30 seconds of the beautiful 20 minute film below will give you an idea of what we owe him.
(To pause, click on any of the funny little icons just above the image to the right.)
. . .
Any thoughts about trees and parks? Add your comment below. I always respond here.