Sunup was early and so was I, so off I dashed out the door at 7:40 a.m. to my usual stomping grounds, Council Point Park. Enroute to the Park, as I cut through the subdivisions, a few people were sitting on the porch, including the older woman who generally sits huddled beneath a polar fleece comforter on her big rocker every morning. Today she had cast it aside and was sitting in a housecoat drinking a steaming beverage. She waved hello and we exchanged the same pleasantries about the beautiful October morning as we have all week. The Park was entirely empty when I arrived, plus most of the time on the pathway. I was walking and scanning the Creek for waterfowl with which to share my offerings … just a few tidbits of bread, when the sudden, loud whistle of the train and the rattle of its wheels grinding along the tracks on nearby Emmons Boulevard, startled me out of my reverie.
As I walked along the edge of the Creek, the sunbeams literally lit up the park and shone down upon the water. I wish I could say I looked into the water and saw my reflection, but that would be a falsehood. The truth is the waters of the Ecorse Creek are muddy and murky and you would not want to be dipping your toes in there. When I gaze through the bulrushes and reeds to see the geese or ducks, I suppose it is like donning a pair of rose-colored glasses. I do not see the murky water, nor do I see the huge cement boulder in which black spray paint proclaims that “Rick Loves Lisa”. I am also oblivious to the large tree where someone, no doubt the same clever artist, has emblazoned “Marks The Spot” in bold, black letters. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the “X” part of the sentence. Unfortunately, Lincoln Park is in financial straits so bare-bones maintenance, i.e. grass cutting and clean-up of the picnic shelter and restroom area, is about all that is accomplished at the Park. From time to time, the Mayor calls upon her constituents to spend a morning with her doing clean-up with their own rakes and gloves, and it is then that a crumpled Cheetos cellophane bag, or an old candy wrapper and all the wayward empty plastic water bottles disappear from beneath the bushes along the water’s edge. Because I’m a glass half-full kind of person – yes, you could call me the eternal optimist, I see right past the graffiti and litter and take comfort in the beauty that is really there and you don’t have to look hard to find it.
I am not the only person who is soothed or takes comfort in those 27 acres of woodland area. As you walk along the looped path, there are dozens of memorial trees of every size and variety planted throughout the Park. A square memorial stone accompanies these special trees, which bears the honoree’s name, birth and death date. As the seasons have progressed from Spring to Summer and now Fall, I have watched the various adornments placed at the base or on the branches of these memorial trees. I would liken the trees to gravestones in a cemetery, with the decorating usually done with equal solemnity. I guess I am unique in that I’ve never been to a cemetery for anyone in my family nor my circle of friends. I have done charcoal etchings at the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Wyandotte and visited Arlington Cemetery and Flanders Field, but the latter two occasions were as a tourist. My grandparents both passed away in cold weather and burial was not done after the funeral ceremony. My mom’s ashes were scattered in a woodland area near the water in Amherstburg, Ontario.
So, in these three seasons I have walked through the Park, there have been many poignant remembrances to loved ones such as trinkets or flowers laying alongside the memorial stone or a wreath hanging on a branch of their loved one’s memorial tree. Flowers in cone-shaped holders with a placard honoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day or a flag near the tree’s base for Memorial Day or Fourth of July are also heartrending tributes to lost relatives or friends. But today, I saw a remembrance that took me aback somewhat. As I approached a small elm tree I first smelled, then saw the freshly mounded, dark cypress mulch around its base. A small scarecrow was sticking out of the mulch. It caught my eye right away as did the new harvest-décor wreath which was suspended from a branch. Despite the soaking wet grass, I strode over to read the stone. It was a young woman – Erica, born March 9, 1987 and died on December 27, 2008. Only 21 years old. I felt sorry for the parents whom I never met and their daughter whom I would never meet, who died two days after Christmas. It made me feel sad, despite the whimsical scarecrow standing guard over the stone and tree.
Also sad and sentimental, was the gathering of my fellow grads from the LPHS class of June ’73 who assembled at Council Point Park this morning to collectively view the small maple tree where a stone memorializes the thirty students who have passed away since graduation. On Facebook I have perused last week’s 40th reunion pictures and the list of our deceased classmates, in addition to the commentary and reflections on their deaths. The group no doubt paused at the inline skating rink which is dedicated to David Ward, our classmate and a Lincoln Park firefighter. But Dave, who passed away in 1999, did not die in the line of duty –cancer took him, just as it claimed the lives of many of the others. I departed the Park before this group wended their way along the path while they revisited old memories and paused to remember their friends’ passing.
When I finally left Council Point Park I walked a near-identical trek as yesterday, only this time I meandered around Lions Park, instead of merely marching past it. It was the first time I ever visited this particular park since its dedication in 2010. Lions Park also has a paved, perimeter path that runs parallel to the Ecorse Creek and is a mini version of Council Point Park but the playground equipment is geared for handicapped and special needs children, and a sensory garden has been created where blind people can walk through and smell and touch the flowers and hear the birds. The entire park is an elaborate set-up to make special needs kids feel as normal as any other kid at a playground. Thank you to the Lions Club for seeing this need.
As I walked home, I reflected on how blessed I was to have had a normal childhood, not touched by illness or pain, walking around unencumbered by a wheelchair, walker, crutches or braces like these poor kids. My own mother was hit by a car at age eleven and spent the next four years in a pediatric hospital and underwent over forty orthopedic-related operations in her lifetime. This was all because Pauline did not look both ways before she crossed the street and made an impetuous dash in front of an automobile on July 12, 1937.
Today, I felt very lucky. I walked 5 ¼ miles on healthy legs, heard the beautiful birdsong, witnessed the leaves turning colors and smelled the semi-musty odor of the leaves on the wet grass. In reflecting on my life, I know I have an awful lot to be thankful for. I leave you with this song, circa early 70s. I remember listening to it on my stereo with huge headphones as I was not allowed to blast my music in the house. The song was insightful then and now just as much. I was thinking about this song while walking this morning. It is by The Marmalade and entitled “Reflections Of My Life”. Have a listen and see if you are moved by it as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVppxyO6HwQ.