Imagine a city park. Those of us in rural communities don’t consider parks as much because we have lots of wide open spaces in which to wander. But an urban area where there are blocks of apartments, businesses and busy streets, without any green spaces between, (“Green space (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation) is without real life. One article I read talked about active and passive green spaces. Our parks serve both purposes and we need to protect them both. I want to explore that a bit.
Early photos of Glendive show land that is completely open between the river and the badlands. The community was once reminded that every tree in Glendive has been planted. And in this country that also means watered with great care and in many cases protected from the winter elements. The first settlers of the Great Plains struggled to grow trees. My first trips east of the Missouri River were overwhelming. I had never seen so many trees in one place. But you see, I was a prairie dweller, used to viewing an open horizon. While my grandmother from Wisconsin would return to the South Dakota prairie with soil from Wisconsin, hoping it would help her lilac bushes to grow, struggling as they did in the drought, wind, and the heat.
We need green spaces and we need trees and flowers and areas where we can just “be”, away from the noise and confusion of business and traffic. Glendive’s city parks are wonderful. We are blessed with public green spaces in every part of town. And these parks are maintained by the Public Works department. They water, mow, fertilize, rake leaves, maintain equipment and picnic tables. Those green spaces we take for granted, that we cherish for their shade and beauty and tranquility, are a gift given to the community.
Just think of Lloyd Square Park. How often in the summer do folks find shelter from the heat under the towering trees. Years ago there were band concerts in the park and Shakespeare in the Parks used the area for many years of plays — there is the swimming pool and bath house, tennis courts, playground, covered and open picnic areas, a basketball hoop and a lovely maintained garden and lots of room for the squirrels to play. The parks over the bridge include soccer fields, horse shoe pits, another tennis court, volleyball grounds, playground and skate park and picnic tables. Whipkey Park on the East side has a splash park, playground, baseball field and soccer fields and skating rink and a wonderful hill that is the best place in town for children to go sledding.
A green space is more valuable than we imagine. We humans have a compulsive need to fill up spaces. If there is an open lot we put up a shed. We fill our parks with things to do. But we also need a place to be able to sit quietly and read a book, or throw out a blanket and have a picnic, or wander among the trees and observe nature. Green spaces are not empty spaces in and of themselves, but filled with natural life which is essential to our mental well being.
As I listen to people talk about our local green spaces I keep hearing about more things to build in our parks. Of filling up the spaces, when the wonder and beauty of Makoshika, or example, is its wilderness. Development has its place, but it can also destroy the gift that is given us to just wander at will.
We need active and passive green spaces and then we must plan our parks and activities with care. Green spaces are areas that keep giving for generations. We need to do our work of preservation in this time and space. (Avis Anderson is a long-time resident of Glendive currently serving on the City Council.)
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, - and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of. . .and while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God. (Poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee)
By chance, did you catch the lift off of the space ship “Resilience” this past week-end, as it headed into space taking four astronauts to the space station? It put me in mind of when I first heard the word “Sputnik” and Yuri Gagarin; then John Glenn and Apollo and those words, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those were heady days in America when we were united by some of the greatest achievements history had ever seen. I had to watch the lift-off on some side tv channel. We here on earth are still mired in our red and blue tribal culture, clinging to vestiges of what “was” rather than recognizing that history is linear. History moves in a straight line and it is always forward.
To watch that shiny ship head into space and think of us still caught in the squabbles that hold us bound to the past is really pathetic. You can’t hold on to the past. A lot of us try to, but it is a deadly past-time that will eventually lead to our own destruction.
I watched the lift off because my nephew, an environmental engineer, let us know. He was excited and knowledgeable about the whole process and what would happen once the ship docked at the space station. He is a Gen X’er and is part of that newer generation of young people who can see beyond our petty squabbles to what lies ahead. You might say he sees beyond the stars. Scientists described the next moon landing which will be near the polar caps of the moon. There is ice there, i.e. water. The moon will become a fueling station for journeys to Mars. I will never see that happen, but he and his family may. But I was there at the beginning when President John Kennedy issued the first challenges that this was something that could be done. And who knew we would see this new day.
Given all the disasters of 2020 I would really pray the New Year will see us rising to our feet and taking up the journey of humanity once again. The promise of a vaccine for the pandemic is here and it is as great an achievement as “Resiliance”. Our democratic process again proved there can be a free election with a peaceful passing of power (albeit reluctantly). History moves us on. As the four astronauts are speeding through space to their new home for seven months, can we move on one step at a time to something greater than ourselves — freedom from war and bloodshed, and poverty, freed for the promise of equality for all people in this time and this place. Promises of a roof over our heads, food for our families, and Peace on Earth goodwill to all.
After a contentious election it is finally over. Biden won but Trump won't concede that he lost. There are all kinds of things that could go wrong between now and January 20th so I don't know. Keep praying, I guess.
Montana went wholly Republican -- couldn't believe it. I think people went down the line and just checked all the Republicans and didn't even think about who they were voting for. It really was disheartening -- so sad -- as some excellent candidates were defeated.
The tribal warfare is so frustrating in this country. There is no concept of compromise. I think Biden's election was a hope that something will change, but I don't know if the opposition will allow that to happen. The need to demonize the other party just stops anything good from happening. When we say "God bless America" we have to mean it from both sides of the aisle and the bottom of our hearts.
Let's see, two trips to Miles City to take recycling and hit Wal-mart and one trip to Dickinson to see an orthopedic guy for a brace which I never got and that's it since the day before Thanksgiving 2019 when I had my surgery. I have not been out of town! I am amazed at how I have accepted the situation with going slowly mad!! In fact, I do admit that everyone I know has done pretty well considering the quarantine situation. The big thing I hear that people did was clean house -- all those boxes were finally sorted and gone through.
But this is about my escape on Saturday. I thought I was getting company, but that didn't happen so I called my nephew in Rapid City, Cole, and asked him to meet me in Buffalo, South Dakota. It was time for a lefse drop! I had ordered lefse for the family and now I had to get it to them.
I left town heading east about 7:30 a.m. The minute I left town I hit fog. I drove in fog nearly the whole way 161 miles. It wasn't pea-soup thick, but it was enough that I couldn't pass on two-lane highways. Just as I am amazed at the folks who don't wear masks these co-vid days, I am surprised at the folks who didn't turn on their headlights when driving in the fog. It really was dangerous.
I drove the first leg of the trip behind a pick-up pulling a trailer. We just got to Baker (75 miles) and a coal train was going through -- at the four way stop the pick up went west and I headed east -- right behind a man hauling several rolls of hay (wide load) on a flatbed. The speed limit in North and South Dakota is 65 on 2 lane highways so that was the only thing that made me have patience. Being a Montana driver I am used to faster speeds. Dad called it my "lead foot".
Cole and I met in Buffalo at the gas station on the south end of town. (Great spot to meet -- can't miss it!) We bought a sandwich at their convenience store and sat in the car and ate. I got a good pre-covid hug, turning my face away from him, but it felt so good. Other than a couple of zoom gatherings I hadn't seen him for a year! He is such a nice man.
I drove back, stopping in Bowman to fill up with gas and get some junk food and then headed north to Amidon and Belfield before I hit the interstate. By that time the fog was gone and the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I got back good season before the deer started coming out. It was a beautiful ride. The windshield time is always a time to be treasured.
Today there was rain and snow, (see photos above) then some clearing, but more of the same predicted.
What freedom! Of course I used plastic gloves to put gas and put on my mask going into the station. It was good to know I could drive that far and made my hip healing almost complete. Distance traveled 340 miles round trip.
As Covid sweeps over the prairies like a wildfire and the political debate and division daily grow more acrimonious and unending, the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament gives us much to think about. Twice now, Lamentations 3.22-27 has appeared in my thoughts and thus into some musings:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Setting is all important to this piece. According to commentaries, the book is a series of five poems that were long believed to have been written by the prophet Jeremiah, depicting the suffering of the children of Israel in Babylon.
Marin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, saw these poems as more than just a harkening back to Babylon. Luther’s theology is called the Theology of the Cross. He believed we meet God in the suffering of this world. Later, Albert Schweitzer would come to a similar understanding that we can only know who Jesus really is when we meet him in the work he has called us to do for our time. To divorce Jesus from his teachings about our call to serve the poor, the sick, those in prison, the hungry, those victims of injustice, that is, the suffering, is to not know Jesus at all. There is another line that says Jesus’ call is to come and die with him and in scripture he says, “Take up your Cross and follow me.”
Lamentations is a book of hope in the middle of suffering. To lament is to claim personal suffering and the suffering of others, but to also know what we are to do with that suffering. We are to lay it at the feet of Jesus and then translate our laments into action. We never give up hope. We go on working and fighting and caring. The struggles of this life also mark a clear vision of our call to serve the world.
Today is All Saints’ Sunday 2020. Saints don’t work for sainthood. It isn’t like a promotion in the Kingdom of God. Saints work because they love God and their lives are lives of gratitude for all they have been given. Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Workers’ Movement wrote, “You cannot look for the true meaning of communion as worship to be participated in by all and dedicating yourself to God in prayers and worship, and yet remain a cold-blooded individualist in one’s life outside the church.” I am reminded of a member of the Movement who was recently injured in Buffalo, New York, during a Black Lives Matter march. He was pushed to the ground as he called for justice and peace. There is much to lament in our world today. The voices of compassion are muffled in the face of oppression and power. But they are never silent. As real today as they were in the time of Jeremiah, the Laments teach us how to sit quietly in the mercies of the Lord being filled with His loving care for the good of the world.