Often, on my daily walks, I head to the regional park. Earbuds in place, I stride to an eclectic podcast playlist, from the spiritual and philosophic Tapestry, with Mary Hynes, to the practical White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman, the prophetic Ideas with Paul Kennedy, the quirky Freakonomics with Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, or the grounded Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean. So consumed am I with the ideas as well as the connections I build around them that I often miss the simple beauty that surrounds me.
To resensitize myself, I have left the earbuds at home during the last few walks. Consumed with my own thoughts rather than those of others, I had byte space to notice :
· Pirie Field, a national-class baseball field lauded during two Canadian National Junior Baseball Championships;
· manicured secondary ball diamonds;
· neat and precisely painted clay tennis courts;
· campsites nooked in a canopy of trees;
· a railway museum honoring the city’s roots;
· mown grass;
· modern showers serving swimming pool and campground;
· batting cages installed by Terry Puhl, the local boy turned fielder for the Houston Astros;
· the Trans Canada Trail looping through sections of the park;
· benches commemorating community-minded volunteers.
As I walk, I think of the people behind this park. I think of the volunteers who shepherd our baseball team summer after summer, the individuals who call the games, sell tickets, run the lottery, or billet players. I visualize the park staff who prepare the baseball fields for the summer tournaments, trim the grass, clean the showers, stock the wood bins. I picture local celebrities who never forgot where they came from, and local people who celebrate the town’s rail heritage. I recall the hours the Trans Canada Trail Committe devotes to making the trail attractive for runners and evening walkers. So much generosity and genuine caring.
The regional park in my home town saved my father after he sold the farm. Incapable of inactivity, he threw himself heart and soul into taking the park to the next level. It was a two-for-one deal, as he snared my mother in the net of his enthusiasm, and the park work kept them both fit and active until their eighties. They spearheaded people who built a beer garden in the park and extended its boundaries. With more campsites and a gathering place, the park became attractive to organizations and families celebrating special occasions. People came into town, the park made money, the park’s reputation spread, and my parents and others savored the satisfaction of their contributions.
Anything that looks neat, like our regional park, masks hours and hours of devoted, consistent care by people who remain largely nameless. Their daily work allows my daily enjoyment. It’s not the celebrities that keep our world going—the artists, athletes, or politicians who appear on the news and in the tabloids. Our world happens because ordinary people go to work every day, whether they are paid or not, and share their skills. They are the cornerstones of our communities, and I am grateful for their dedication.
Mary Hynes and Stuart McLean notwithstanding, I need to remove the ear buds and pay attention.