A Year of Gifts
I love the word “stroll”. When I hear it, I immediately think of a leisurely nature walk. Or maybe a relaxed meandering down a quaint Main Street somewhere, window shopping and people watching. Even thinking about taking a stroll is a treat.
Yesterday, I did more than think about it. Late morning, I pushed away from my desk, slipped on comfortable shoes and gave myself permission to walk across the street and take a ten-minute stroll. Usually, if I do get some exercise during my work day, it's a one-hour power walk with the intention of getting in as many steps as possible so I can check “exercise” off the day’s to-do list. And even that doesn’t happen often enough. But this is different. My goal is to simply enjoy the park across the street. A gift to myself. And now my gift to you:
The weather is cooperating. It’s slightly overcast, there’s no wind (hard to believe!) and it’s warm at 79 degrees but not yet hot. As I cross the busy road, my ears are bombarded with the sounds of traffic, construction and “progress”. I follow the sidewalk rimming the north side of the park. My first destination is a beautiful seating area, graced with a large, colorful flower garden and bright hanging plants. No one is sitting on the benches. While the noise continues, I start to relax as I take in all the beautiful flowers. I “see” them everyday as I drive by, coming and going from work, but this time I really look at them.
Set a short distance back from the seating area is a small stone marker, flush with the ground. I might not have noticed it if not for the two small American flags waiving above it on short wooden sticks. I wander over and my breath catches as I read the inscription: In memory of Fargo Officer Jason Moszer End of Watch 2-11-16. I’m transported back to a cold, bleak day when the streets of Fargo were lined with people, showing respect for this brave peace officer, taken too soon.
From there, I wander over to the large monument bearing the inscription “Angel of Hope”. At the base is a small, handmade wooden cross. I wonder who might have placed the cross here, among the snowy white flowers. The monument is a beautiful tribute to the innocent, to lost children. Pavers bearing inscriptions to lost loved ones ring the monument. I pause to offer up a prayer for them.
The park is intersected with walking paths. As I stroll deeper into the heart of it, the sound of traffic and everyday life fades away, replaced by birds chirping and an occasional shout of laughter or murmur of conversation. Two women sit on a bench next to a huge pine, visiting. A man sits on top of a picnic table, ear buds in, listening to something as he looks at his phone. “Look up” I want to tell him, there is so much to see.
I hear the whirl of a lawn mower. The smell of fresh cut grass permeates the air and small swirls of grass clippings powder the path at my feet. A golf cart passes me with barely a sound. The driver gives me a friendly wave as he makes his way to the next trash bin. I feel a sense of gratitude for the work they do, keeping this pretty little gem groomed and clean in the middle of our city.
There are people around, but because the park is so large, I still feel a sense of solitude in this tranquil environment. Groups are playing tennis. Someone rides by on a bicycle. A man walks ahead of me, vaping. A group of adults are a little way off, playing some kind of game with a ball. I can hear their laughter. A bright cluster of playground equipment is off to my left. Kids play on the structure while those responsible for their care watch from the sidelines. I marvel at the height of the center structure of the play equipment. If a child can climb way up inside there to the top, the view has to be extraordinary.
I stop at a tall statue, obviously very old. The words inscribed are starting to fade. I read the name: Henrik Wergeland, June 17, 1808 – July 12, 1845. There is a description of him and I struggle to make it out. The words “a friend to the poor and oppressed” jump out at me, as does the note that this was a gift from Norway to the United States. Who was this man, dead now for 173 years? He must have been special.
The park is full of trees, both old and new. Efforts to maintain this space into the future are evident. Newer trees are staked to give them a chance to mature, a measure of protection against the inevitable storms and wind. The grass is green but dry patches are starting to show and the ground is showing a web of cracks. We need rain.
Off to my right is a majestic white gazebo. A park district vehicle sits beside it and someone stands high on a ladder inside, perhaps repairing the lofty ceiling. Many marriages have commenced here. I stop to check the schedule posted near the gazebo. There will be music played here in the coming days, open to the public with free will offerings to benefit local charities.
Continuing on, I reach an area of the park with newer sidewalks. There are treasures here, below the feet of visitors. Short poems, etched into the path. Written by children. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of one so I could remember a young girl’s words of wisdom and share them with you:
A New Beginning
Live life right,
Parks can take you anywhere.
Life is wonderful.
So live like it is.
Hannah W. Age 10
I stroll on, amazed at the wisdom of one so young. I’m now at the far end of the park. A woman is sitting at a picnic table, shoes kicked off, reading. I suspect she’s on an early lunch break. I start walking back toward the other end, following a different path now. This one takes me by a large, unique structure. A sign reads “Jerry Scherling Court Complex”. The backside flanks the tennis courts. Some day I’ll research what this is, who Jerry was.
I spot another flat, concrete marker at the base of a large evergreen. I wander over to see what this one says. Another memory, this one older, springs to mind as I read these words:
This tree is symbolic of the miracle of Christmas that the Fargo-Moorhead community experienced during the life-saving rescue of Alvard Garza in December of 1987. This tree has been planted to remind us of the miracle of life that we all experience each day.
Alvard was a young boy who nearly drowned when he fell through the ice on the Red River. His survival was nothing short of a miracle. I appreciate the reminder that we all witnesses miracles throughout our lives.
I’m now three-fourths of the way through the park, my stroll nearing its end. I stop at another beautiful flower bed. The brilliant yellow of the large marigolds happen to match my shirt today. The Island Park Pool is behind me. It won’t be long until this area is swarming with kids but I’m a little early. It isn’t open quite yet.
There is one last statue to stop at, to wonder about. This one towers far above me, too high for me to guess at its height. Near the bottom are the words “In Memory of our Comrades 1861-1865”. A man in uniform stands tall at the top of the structure. The year 1918 is placed in fancy scroll work near the top.
I check the time. My stroll has extended to twenty minutes and it’s time to get back. I pass by a sign in front of the YMCA, advertising openings in their fall back-to-school program, reminding me how fleeting summer is. As I make my way back across the asphalt, the heat of the day becomes apparent. Whether it’s from the sun reflecting off the concrete or the things I know are waiting for me back at my desk, I can’t know. But my little reprieve has been delightful. I’m reminded there is always a tranquil oasis not far from me. When life heats up or stagnates, I must remember to give myself permission to put on my walking shoes and take a stroll with my eyes wide open. I’ll again find my center and will learn new things in the process.
Life is good. Life is a gift. So truly live it! Kim
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a self-published fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!