motherhood · Outdoors

Good Park

If we lived close enough, we’d walk. It’s a serene neighborhood with wide, welcoming streets and lots of whimsically-painted mailboxes. It has trees, big trees, and not just pines and cottonwoods. This in itself would make the place special.

We scramble up a grass-blanketed hillside, and before us lies a choice: playground, or path, or open field? We opt for the path, a two-adult-wide ribbon of asphalt that curves and bends and hugs the park in a manner that both Olmsted and Wintour would applaud.

We pass trees — this park does have picnic areas under man-made shelters, but not to the visible detriment of nature — and long, sturdy benches. Many trees have plaques memorializing individuals or couples — folks who loved the park, loved the outdoors, or simply were loved.

Between the bounds of the path lies a wide swath of grass. It’s maybe the length of a football field, but distance is hard to gauge when working with small legs more prone to cavorting than to going long. The swath is dotted with more trees and with potential: picnics, form drills, tai chi, games of fetch with dogs or toddlers, whatever blooms in the imagination has space to flourish here.

We turn back towards the playground, with its base of soft, cool sand, with no two slides the same height, with plentiful swings and various safe climbing opportunities. Even we who miss the old splintery wooden castles admit that this is a great playground.

Right now, though, we only do a perfunctory run down the shortest slide before calling a greeting to our friends, who have set up camp on the opposite side of the playground. We met them just last week; is there any place better than a park to forge a friendship?

We produce our new soccer ball: jackpot! The big sisters play kick-and-chase while the little sisters eye each other, and the caregivers chat, cheer, and chastise in turn.

The sun shines. The play pauses. There is breath to be caught, there are snacks to be eaten, there are places to explore.

There is a park to enjoy.

In appreciation of Aldo Leopold and his superb essay “Good Oak.”

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