Sunday in the Park
June 16, 2007
It was about a dozen years ago that my son graduated from Colorado College and I actually listened to the speaker. In fact, I listened all weekend. Randy’s graduation was a thing of wonder to me. He was the first member of my side of the family to ever graduate college, so the whole process had me in a state of awe. The then tribal leader of the Navajo Nation led the baccalaureate service on Sunday. It was the first time I heard the recitation of The Beauty Way. A kind of prayer about walking in beauty, above you, below you, all around you. It was powerful stuff.
On the day of the graduation ceremony, a man spoke — either a senator or congressman — who had attended Colorado College. He was charismatic but not in a slick, work-the-crowd kind of way. In a natural, well bred, well spoken sense. When he addressed the graduates, he focused on a quote from the bible, maybe the Old Testament (my bible literacy being weak), a passage about man having dominion over all the plants and animals. He said it was time to re-examine how we read that passage. (Bless him for assuming we had all read that passage.)
What bothered him was the word dominion. It sounded like power and authority when he thought it really meant responsibility, stewardship. He then told the graduates the future would be filled with challenges and opportunities but if they forgot their responsibility to care for the plants and animals and those things under their care, they would fail. And he made it sound that by caring for the pansy and the sparrow they would succeed in the most important job of any lifetime.
There was more, of course. There might have been a mention about stewardship of money and other more mundane resources. Maybe oil. It was both an environmental and spiritual message. I remember being impressed with his delivery and sincerity. But we had celebration lunches and dinners and dances ahead.
I spent my summers then simply trying to keep the yard without sprinklers from dying before August. I started doing some work in the Navajo Nation and heard the Beauty Way recited often. Words I’d heard in the stained glass chapel, I was now hearing in the desert at dawn. I did my church shopping, attending services at most of the local established churches with little regularity and concluded, as I had in the past, that God doesn’t live in a building among people who create politics in religion. And more and more, I would commune in/with nature.
Almost 30 years ago when I moved to Park City there were few trees. In fact, one of my favorite stories is about the Park City Mountain Resort selling the golf course to the city and planting 1,500 trees (saplings) that are now the mature foliage you see on the course. It was such a forward-thinking gift. All around Park Meadows in the early ’80s, where I have lived my entire time in town, folks were planting bushes and trees that the city offered through the forest service or friends of somebody. I have a lilac bush from that period and an apple tree that started out in something like a Dixie cup.
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Last night when I was out in the garden planting the pansies that, yes, are just annuals here but make me laugh when I see their pansy faces each day, I was looking at the evidence of the deer who had been back in my yard. They seem to like the corner where there are two birdfeeders with different types of seed. That’s when I saw Brother Frank, my wooden St. Francis statue/birdfeeder. Brother Frank has had a hard time keeping his head on. He stands about four feet tall and gets knocked over a lot. By raccoons and deer, who want the birdseed, by the kids in the ‘hood who play games around his wooden robe. I had stuck his head back on temporarily and propped up his disjointed arm a few weeks ago. I had planned to fix them. I did. But I noticed they had been reattached. I don’t know by whom or when. But I am grateful. We all need a little help from time to time.
There was a message on my answering machine that some friends/neighbors had stopped by the night before while I was out. They wanted me to know they sat for spell in the yard and watched a pair of gold finches at one of the feeders. There was also a message from the tree-care company who had sprayed for weevils on the fir tree and some kind of organic rust on the ash. While a tiny part of me did curse the need to spray the trees, another part remembered that long-ago speech from the Coloradan, who instructed the students and parents, to be good stewards.
Last week I spent some time at my son’s house in Salt Lake City. He has a terrific yard with giant old trees oaks, maples, cottonwoods — and some remarkable old rose bushes drooping from the weight of their stunning red blooms. When my son and his wife were at work and Mz Iz, my 5 1/2-year-old granddaughter and I were left to our own devices, we went to the garden store, bought seeds to plant, supports for the roses and more seed for the birdfeeder I’d given them. When my son came home from work and saw we had weeded and propped up the roses, he was slightly embarrassed and said he’d planned to do those things. I know he did, but he is busy and so is his wife, working hard and raising two curious, interesting children. I told him I was happy to help. Iz and I had fun doing the work and it made for some great conversations about the role of snails in the garden, ditto earthworms, and we identified three different kinds of birds at the feeder. I asked him if he remembered the speaker from his graduation and he did, actually. I told him I had been thinking about that speech a lot lately. I told him, too, I would send along the name of the tree service so he could have an assessment done of his magnificent trees. I wonder when he will discover the cast iron bird Izzie and I tucked among the rose bushes.
We like to think saving the planet and creating a better world needs to take place in some other country. And we do need to do our global part to help where we can.. But sometimes it is comforting to think that what we do by being good stewards of just those few plants and animals under our care matters, too. This time of year, when the town is filled with misspelled "lemon-aid" stands, kids on bikes playing games, when the weather is perfect and the pansies are perky and not yet leggy — all seems right with the world. I feel responsible now for my little corner of it, which is why I’ll be out digging and planting and filling the feeders, this Sunday in the Park