Sunday in the Park
October 10, 2008
I am not naïve. I understand we are in a crisis of historic proportions. I do. I know there is seismic uncertainty about the upcoming election. That Wall Street and Main Street don’t naturally intersect, but at the present, have somehow managed to collide. That the good news of the week is that gas prices are dropping and the bad news is there is no safe way to stockpile that resource in your garage for the long winter ahead.
But last night, when I came from home from work and it was blustery, not yet raining, just blowy and cold, I heard children’s laughter out back as clear as if it were still a summer day. I peeked outside to find one of the neighborhood dads engaged in a serious game of soccer/kickball/fall frolic with the little kids. This summer I had asked permission of my only occasional neighbor to take down the fence that separated our yards. We were the last barrier in the circle. He didn’t care and so we opened up a continuous green field in the cul-de-sac between four houses. It has provided an even greater park-like setting for us all visually, but for the kids it has stirred their imaginations and provided more safe spaces to explore.
I admired/envied the dad who was outside playing. He is in an industry that is, no doubt, affected by The Downturn, as we euphemistically call the Current Disaster under the watch of the Current Occupant. Still, there is only so much hand-wringing one can do. And while children can’t be shielded from all the news, there is little they do to change the day-to-day crisis. This dad clearly decided a rousing session of running and laughing would be good for all involved.
It reminded me of one of those BBC stories I had heard in the wee hours of a non-sleeping morning recently. There was a man in lilting tones talking about the research that shows, and I love this description, "that human thought is more contagious than the common cold." And then, dozing on and off, I absorbed that idea. At a speech this winter at the TED conference, Al Gore told his audience that yes, we were the generation that had to take responsibility for the climate crisis. But then he said we also had the technology and the wisdom to be the generation that could fix it. It was both a somber message and yet, ultimately, one of hope.
And all of that led my sleepy brain to the fires in Yellowstone twenty years ago (don’t try to follow the labyrinth of my thinking; I personally gave up on that years ago). The fire was shocking of course, but the policy to let it burn was, for many of us, equally as shocking. Our natural response was to put it out and save the old-growth trees and the other flora of the forest. But the National Park folks explained their let-it-burn policy and how we needed to let nature take its course, and that burning from lightning strikes had long been a part of nature. Hundreds of flaming acres of favorite campsites and trails were the lead story of television and print news crews. Even The Park Record had a reporter go into the park to cover the story.
Today, if you go to the park, you can see the wisdom of that decision. The new growth has filled in and allowed different animals and lesser plant life to flourish. After years of charred timber, the lush Crayola green was prominently on display this spring.
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Times are tough. Restaurants, lodging and, well, the rest of us, exist in the delicate balance of a community built upon the discretionary income of others. We manufacture nothing. No one needs to buy a house in Deer Valley. There is no real industry here. No Fortune 500 company that calls this home. To survive, more than ever before, we have to literally support each other and convince others to support us. Hunkering down is what we need to do and who we need to be.
And yet how you feel is how you choose to feel. The economy isn’t going to change anytime soon. You can go from to day to day lamenting that or you can see the foliage before it’s gone. Laugh at the school play. Enjoy friends at dinner. Read a book, take a bath. There are things you can change and a portfolio of things you cannot.
This week, for example, marked the first New Year celebration in Temple Har Shalom. The Jewish community, for the first time in the recorded history of Park City, had a home of its own for the holidays. They came to worship in record numbers. The Park City High football team won its homecoming game. And a basement full of dynamite was discovered in the ground in an old mine tunnel before a luxury hotel was built on the property and before anyone was injured in the process.
I understand this doesn’t change the news from Wall Street, where perhaps a financial let-it-burn policy seems to be in effect. But there is more news than that. Some good news that could be contagious if we allowed ourselves the luxury of good thoughts. And this weekend, if the neighborhood gang is out and about in the promised snow, I promise to get out and romp with them. It costs me nothing except getting out my funk and, since that isn’t serving me well anyway, I might as well remember to count the little things as part of an attitude of gratitude that could prove useful, I suspect, for the foreseeable future of Sundays in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.