Walking Journal / Walking

Walk 19 – Chickasaw Park

. 3 min read . Written by Russell Smith
Walk 19 –  Chickasaw Park

We would not be human without water and wood

For decades in the 20th century, this Park was designated a blacks-only park by the city, along with a few other parks. Most of the city’s parks were reserved for whites. The parks were desegregated in the 1950s.

The park lies in the far West End, along the Ohio River, slightly south of its larger sister Shawnee Park. This part of the West End is majority-black. I’d never once visited this Park. It was time to check it out.

Since early in these walks – Walk 1, in fact – I have quickly removed myself from the pavement and chosen to amble on grass, dirt and mud – anything but asphalt and concrete – if I can help it. I got out of my car and walked toward the Ohio River. A steep, wooded and brushy embankment prevents you from getting close to the water. But I feasted on the scenery through the tree branches. For my whole life, I have loved gazing upon water, especially moving water – the sea, rivers, streams. The glint of sunshine on the always-sifting water brings me a feeling of peace. I don’t know what that is, but I am not alone. Water – the symbol of cleanliness, of renewal, of purity, of rejuvenation, of salvation – almost calls us to a ritual. It has always called us to ritual, even to devotion,  much like the trance-inducing fire. It probably always will.

The old, tall, huge trees also drew me in – as they have called to me on nearly every walk. Why, I wonder? Why do they lure me in? It does not escape my awareness that trees, also, call us into ritual. Christ died on a cross made from a tree. Buddhist monks beg alms with a wooden plate or bowl. The crack of the wood bat announces “Play Ball!” Every night, I read words printed on paper made from wood.

Wood and water. We would be without life but for wood and especially water. We would not be human without wood and water.

I loved this walk amidst the wood and water. I fell into a reverie, musing on wood and water … and life. What are my rituals? What are my devotions? Do “my” even matter? What are our rituals? Our devotions? What are the rituals of this place, this city, that I have re-chosen as my home? What do those rituals say about us, the humans who have built and continue to, well, co-create this place?

How do we utilize the wood around us? The water? How do we externalize our devotion? Do our hearts beat in concord with that devotion? Or do our hearts wonder? pause? recoil? at the devotion we have chosen? If we stood still, if we listened – deeply, perhaps for the first time in years, maybe for the first time ever – what do our hearts tell us about our devotions?

These questions and more came into my heart. I feel so often that my heart only asks questions – question mark after question mark after question mark. I seem to have no answers, I find no path to any answers – satisfying or not – I simply so often have no answers.

So, I do only what I can do. I ask. And I ask some more.

I will return soon. And I will visit its larger sister soon too.