For anyone that lives, works, or even visits the Toledo area. I highly recommend one of our many Metroparks. For my first semester I took a Composition class and was asked to write about a place from memory that had a great impact in my life or somehow influenced me. I of course, could think of no better place to write about. Part of this Essay was published in the 2009 Spring/Summer edition of the Metropark Magazine. I was very excited. It is titled, "Observations of a Metropark".
Since August of 1934, Pearson Park has served the community as a place where people can get together and take a step back from everyday life. Whether someone yearns to ride the trails by bicycle; craves a hamburger cooked fresh from the grill at a family reunion; or takes the kids to the playground so they can laugh, play, and do the things that kids will do, this place has it all. However; Pearson Park is not only a landmark of social interaction within the community, a place of recreation, or even relaxation. It is a place where all of these things converge and become a place that is as close to a spiritual experience as I have ever had.
As a child, my parents used to take me to the park and we would cook out with the other neighbors, or sometimes other family members. I can still remember the sweet scent of the summer flowers that filled the air like a cloud or the way the fresh cut grass permeated our nostrils. We were care-free and would pretend that we were heroes and heroines like we watched on our favorite cartoons. Soon after, the smell of hotdogs and hamburgers would signal that it was time for dinner. Along with the various playgrounds and picnic areas that were scattered through the park, there was a cottage that could be rented as well. Once a year all of our family would get together for a reunion. The adults would cook, reminisce of days gone by, and play euchre. Meanwhile, us kids would run around and find places we could play hide and seek; discover different kinds of bugs and lizards to catch; and imagine we were fairy's, wood nymph's, and sprites. Time seemed to stand still when we were there. It was a magical time. Pearson Park is a great place for families and friends to get together.
It is more than just a gathering place for people though. Recreational activities abound. Some of the activities include paddle boating, fishing, nature-watching, playgrounds, tennis courts, trails for bicycling or walking, and sledding in the winter. One year our science class took a field trip there to watch some of the animals we were leaning about. The various birds of our area, the squirrels, and rabbits were very entertaining. For the nature-watchers there is a small building that was made just so you can sit down and watch them interact through a window. The area just outside is filled with various feeders and to watch the animals interact together is enjoyable and relaxing. In the winter time, the building is heated so you can come in from the cold and enjoy watching nature. I also recall during many winters having to take turns to sled down the giant hill after a big snowfall. Nothing beat the look of the snow when it first fell. It glistened in the sun like thousands of twinkling lights. Snowball fights were a normal occurrence back in those days and making snow angels topped out priority list as well. My junior year of high school, a group of us decided to have our pictures taken there before prom. Around the main pond is a wooded deck that seems to go on and .. we had some photos taken, some of the guys had found a bit of fishing line with a hook still in it and decided that they wanted to try and catch a fish. They all took turns dangling the line in the water trying to entice a fish to nibble, but no one caught anything that day. How many people can say they have seen guys in tuxedos try and fish in a pond with a makeshift line and pole? As the remainder of my school days began to wind down and come to an end, I found myself at the park more and more frequently.
The trails at Pearson Park seem to go on and on. There is a bike trail and there is a walking trail and at various points throughout they cross paths. A person could definitely make a journey seem endless by continuing to switch paths. The closer it came to graduation, the more time I spent walking along the trails. The time that I spent at the park seemed almost therapeutic to me. It didn't seem to matter what was going on in my life, or what huge dilemma I was trying to solve. All my troubles and fears seemed to melt like butter when I was there. I felt that when I had something specific that I was trying to work out or rationalize, I found the answers there. As I would wander, I would discover older, more unkempt trails that seemed hidden from sight and almost seemed to beckon me to walk down them. I remember the poem by Robert Frost and would journey down the long forgotten path. The farther I got away from the well travelled path, the closer I got to the heart of what this place was all about. It was there that I found not only the solitude I craved, but nature was all around and I was there in the center of it all. It was a place where chipmunks scampered along the ground looking for food, and spiders spun intricate webs without being afraid of destruction. Fallen trees served as homes for many of these animals, or just as a place to quietly sit and observe them while I pondered some of the deeper questions that most high school seniors have regarding the many choices available after graduation. I would explore and seek out new places where I know that I was definitely alone with nothing more than the thoughts running around my head. I found several places that soon became a favored spot for solitude. One was an old bridge by a bubbling brook. I would sit there for hours and feel completely at peace. The sound of the running stream had a calming effect and I enjoyed watching the animals come to get a drink. This place is teeming with life that sometimes gets overlooked with all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But, in this place, my very own Teribithia I could slow down and see the interactions between the animals. I listened to the sounds of the birds singing to one another. I heard the sway of the leaves in the trees during a gentle breeze. It was as close to a spiritual experience as I have ever had. I felt like right at that moment God (or some version of a supreme being) could hear my thoughts and prayers whether I communicated them out loud or not. The trees, the grass, the animals were all together in perfect harmony. It was, and still is to me, tranquility at its finest.
Looking back on the observations I have made, I can see some human qualities and emotions in my sanctuary. On a windy day, for example, when the trees are swaying in the breeze and the leaves are falling all around it is as if someone is saying, "Go away and come back another day". When it rains and the sky looks gloomy there is an unmistakable feeling of sadness. It is almost as if the park itself is weeping for something I have yet to discover. When you are there in the early morning and all the deer have come out of their hideaways to feed, it is as if they know they are protected and are not intimidated by the presence of people. They will continue to frolic and feed and when they do look at you it is as if to say, "I know you can't hurt me here, so I will tolerate you."
Pearson Park has a wide assortment of activities for all ages. It is not just a place for social interactions, recreation, or even relaxation. Unfortunately, even after reading this, some will still only see the park as a playground, a bike trail, or a place to go every year for a family reunion. To me though, it will remain a place where you can step back into the past and rediscover things you have forgotten about life and even yourself. If more people could slow down from their busy lives and take the time to really look around them, then maybe they could see the same wonderful things that I see. The metropark is a truly spiritual place that will remain a value to the community.
Real life, art, and other fun stuff
Life is a journey, not a destination. Sure, we have all heard it before and it has become a cliche in our society. There is truth in that statement though. When one road is closed (and anyone that drives in and around the Toledo area can verify this), there is always another route waiting to lead you to where you need to be. I've learned a lot over the past few years and I plan to document both the good times and the bad. Hopefully, through it all, I can help some other poor, lost, lonely soul that is wandering on the road called life.