Walk 12 – George Rogers Clark Park
Wildness and history. Wildness and patience
George Rogers Clark founded Louisville in 1778. He named the city in the bend of the Ohio River after King Louis XVI, in honor of France’s support of the American Revolution. Clark became a general in the war – actually, the highest ranking American officer in the western theater of war. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Clark’s younger brother, William, joined Meriwether Lewis in leading the famous Lewis and Clark expedition to the west coast of the continent. William did live in a previous home at the site of this park; curiously, the park’s namesake did not.
I perceived that aura of history in this place. Human history and natural history merged in the Bald Cypress tree in the park. At least 200 years old, it is believed to be one of the oldest remaining trees in Kentucky and likely the oldest in Louisville. A black metal fence offers more symbolic than real protection from human interference, but from the look of the tree, people respect the boundary. Maybe most people feel what I felt – simple awe from the presence of such an old living creature. In the timeline of creation, 200 years does not seem that long, and well, it isn’t. But still, more than four times older than me seemed worthy of honor bordering on reverence.
We do not think of patience and wildness co-existing. They seem quite opposed to each other. Yet in a tree we perceive both patience and wildness at work. I love this paradox; maybe that's why I have newly-discovered a fascination with and love for trees.
My walk lasted barely over half an hour – one of my shorter walks. One of the pleasant observations from my walks is a feeling of peace and restoration washing over me after only a few minutes. I do find a deeper wellspring of this sentiment on my longer walks, but the tonic of nature begins to act almost immediately.
Maybe this is why I have expanded my office jungle significantly over the past few months. Starting with one air plant, a gift from my yoga instructor, I added a cactus late last year. Then a Christmas cactus. Then another small cactus. A few weeks ago, I added a foot-tall San Pedro cactus in a lovely earthenware pot. Then, in one fell swoop, I accumulated an African Milk Tree, a prickly pear cactus, a reaching Hoyas plant, a wide pot with three succulents and another cactus. I survey my little jungle, and the hiding Lego animals, frequently throughout the day. Even a brief gaze brings a smile to my face and peace to my heart.
What enchants us about these little gardens or jungles? Do they stimulate some recess of our minds in a way our modern, city-dominated lives do not? Do they offer only a pleasing image for our eyes? Do we appreciate their silence in an age of noise? Do we yearn to care for a living creature, but with lower stakes than another human? Does the ability to arrange our plants within curious and various pots, and then amongst each other, spur a creative spark inside us? Are we amazed to find the fingerprint of Heaven in a child, and also somehow beautifully imprinted on these green fibrous stalks? Do they simply, strangely, magically make us happy, and that is enough?