Sunday in the Park
September 25, 2009
It was a Saturday morning that started with a surprise. I walked into my tiny garden and realized I hadn’t been there in weeks. Honestly. August had been full — busy days and nights. And as perhaps the only house in Park Meadows left without a sprinkling system, I had finally given up dragging the hose around the yard and just let the strong survive. Which meant, pretty much, the sunflowers. In the vegetable garden the lettuce seemed healthy and there were some cherry tomatoes holding out and on. And the root stuff — carrots and beets. But the rest — the potted flowers and some of the herbs and, well, a bunch of other stuff — had gone to seed or gone to the great compost heap in the sky.
I felt bad. I had been a good steward for months of planning and nursing the little green shoots and adding smart organic stuff to the soil and weeding and thinning and watering. Then I just forgot. Everything got so urgent that I forgot what was important. I was sad and mad. I found myself kicking rocks on my garden path. Then something unnatural caught my eye in my very natural garden path. A pink rock and a purple one and one, some shade of green, that maybe appears in nature in a shamrock in Ireland but really stood out on the path. The highly polished rocks numbered about a dozen and they were lovely but also out of place. And I certainly hadn’t placed them there.
A little while later I encountered some of my neighbors at Home Depot which, depending upon the time you arrive, can be more social than Starbucks. The happy couple was there with their two precious boys. We all had a neighborhood party planned later in the day and we were trying to knock out the chores beforehand. I walked over to the cart and bent down to talk to my buddy, five-year-old Hudson. "Hey," I said, "I found some beautiful new rocks in my garden. You should come see them."
Hudson took a moment, weighing his choices and the idea of full disclosure. "I put them there," he said with glee. "I got them in bags and then I took the bags and poured them in your garden. Did you see the pink one?" I told him I had indeed. I promised him soon we could dig up the carrots there. And then I said I’d see him at the party.
That afternoon our cul-de-sac was a flurry of activity. The portable giant pizza oven arrived and friends brought tablecloths and beverages and a bouncy house appeared and chairs were borrowed and chips and dips arrived and we pulled our cars into our garages and driveways to make room for the guests.
I think a good hundred or so folks showed up. Some with flowers, all with smiles. We were celebrating the end of a very long year where a teenage girl had battled cancer, lost a leg bone and survived her last chemotherapy treatment with great spunk. Under shade trees out back I heard languages I’ve never learned to speak … Russian, Arabic, German, French, Spanish, Austrian, Argentinean and whatever the hell Peter Cole speaks — some Great Brittany thing that is charming but still rather foreign overall. The young woman being celebrated changed outfits and added a wig and sweatshirt as the evening progressed. Other cancer patients and cancer survivors were there and a bunch of teenage boys and girls who giggled and ate cake and carried on reasonable conversations with old folks like me.
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The afternoon was idyllic Park City: warm with the trees starting to turn and the sun taking its time to set. Once it was dark, the fireworks came out in a display worthy of the joyful celebration. It had been a very, very difficult year for this loving family. We only knew bits and pieces of that heartache but we knew enough to celebrate. And long after the last starburst of color and shape lit the nighttime sky, we wrapped our sweatshirts around our shoulders and hugged tightly and whispered goodnights.
The harvest season can seem to be only about the bounty we reap from our gardens. But if we are thoughtful, it can also be a time to reflect upon those surprises that survived the odds. How bald really is beautiful. How shiny rocks can matter more than a summer squash. How there are a million places to be this time of year and how very precious a single Saturday night can be that turns from a sky of colored lights to a quiet, still reentry into another blessedly normal week and another cherished Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré 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.