By Ryan Beam
This piece was written as part of our Colorado River Days Flagstaff 2015 – Writing From Place Workshop led by Mary Sojourner (http://www.breakthroughwriting.net/). We were so honored to work with Mary and we thought Ryan’s piece keenly explained the importance of protecting nearby natural spaces for all of us to share. We hope you enjoy reading it.
Like so many days, this one is cooling off at the park. Usually I’m playing music up here or going for a run into the woods, but tonight, I’m learning to tune into my senses, to tune into my surroundings. Prompted, I steal away briefly to what becomes, for that small moment, my private retreat and I begin to observe.
For the first time, I realize what is happening with the people in that place. I realize the importance of the park. It’s somewhere we escape to, we come to learn, we come to relax, we come to challenge ourselves, we come to share time and build relationships, but most of all, we come to step—if briefly and to a shallow depth—into the outside world (or if you prefer, out of the inside world). And it’s not so much that this is where we would always prefer to be, indeed, great things come from our curious “civilized lives”, but it’s where we can release, if momentarily, some of the pressure that builds on our shoulders throughout the day, where we might begin to mold that dull pressure into growth.
Miraculously, all it takes for this molding to occur is the simple act of stepping back, stepping into our senses that have been so subdued through the day by the circular chitter chatter static that seems only to grow louder in our minds as the years turn past.
For me, today, it’s the sailboat that needs molding, it’s the romantic loneliness that needs molding, it’s the lack (or is it an excess?) of work, it’s the wanting for a guiding beacon that—my God! —needs molding.
And here to do it, here in the park greeting me, massaging my energy down to a slow, workable, state—look! —it’s my senses.
The taste in my mouth that, actually, I realize, is probably always there. Right now: mellow, herbaceous, slightly bitter to the periphery. It’s the chitting of the birds while they hide, watching from the trees and the grass, and let out pips just to assure you they’re still there. The head of a grass crumbled between my fingernails, which, come to think of it, I need to…—No, no, no! Get back! — It’s the light, the musician that filters through the clouds just to play each blade of grass with crisp treble, and the clouds themselves that scrape across the peaks to usher out the low, nurturing, dependable bass tones. And it’s the season, the seasoning, in the air, the pollens and the sugars of decay and other spices that perpetually draw up into our heads.
Yes, it’s the park that, while a compromise, affords us this moment in our every day lives.
But only if we let it. Only if we are intentional about allowing our brows to fall, our fingers to splay, and our lives to sift out. When we do that, these park moments yield reflection, while maybe not at the time or each time, but through time.
I realize now that we must value this, we must consider this, we must practice this, and we must respect our parks and urban wildlands, no matter how grand or how small, not only for their intrinsic value, but also for the growth they facilitate in us. It seems to be the case that without these spaces and moments of reflection, we run the risk of merely ending up simple, cacophonous, amoebous beings, far from our true, beautiful potential.