Sunday in the Gardens of Eden

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Here in Austin Gardens of Eden, on a second Sunday of May morning, with mothers of many species frolicking with their young, a few weeks shy of the sesquicentennial of the birth of St. Frank of Wrighteous Architecture (June 8) and the centennial of the high school graduation of St. Ernest of Heming-My-Way (June 17), with the tabernacles of Prairie-style temples primed for public inspection — on St. Frank's Feast Day (Wright Plus housewalk, May 20) and Unity Temple's rededication (June 17) — we gather to sing hymns of praise to the power of creativity. 

In the center of Eden's meadow is the skeletal stage with K'Nex-style light towers decked by brightly colored pennants waving in the benevolent breeze. Even the air is laid back.

From now until Labor Day, plein air thespians will build and bellow and bluster their hours upon the stage, spouting Elizabethan rhymes, spittle splaying, about once noble Macbeth's ignoble climb to power and his deserved fall from grace, his prophecy fulfilled in the shadow of our very own Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane — and in summer's second half, the fair flowering of feminism in the American West.

In addition to the large boulder banded with metal straps and the ruinous "ghost" well, which have adorned the park for a number of years, al fresco public sculpture is now concentrated in the Arts District on Harrison, the Sculpture Walk beginning its summer run this weekend. Around here, public art is being replaced by lightly-adorned, high-rise monoliths, representing a diminishment of imagination, a shortage of soul, productivity trumping creativity.

For now, though, with spring at last ascendant, this small vestige of Eden hosts white Mayflowers blossoming beneath their leafy umbrellas and wild geraniums peeking pinkly from the understory. A daughter rides dad's shoulders as mom in bright red sundress trails behind, perusing her smart phone; a couple caffeinates on a blanket in the sun, then moves to the shade as the solar furnace, beyond the reach of any high-rise, flares down from directly overhead, unimpeded by our usual complement of killjoy clouds. 

A robin divines the location of a worm in the tall grass, well irrigated by the watering season. Two dogs greet each other by nuzzling noses into the other's underside as their leash handlers exchange an amicable, "He's friendly."

Mom and wandering son picnic on the stone table by the nature center. Mom and adult daughter, toting Tupperware, plop down blanketless in the sun to savor savories — and the other's company. 

Maple seeds twirl earthward where a boy waits with an upside down baseball cap, darting to and fro to catch them. Butterflies flutter, a Madonna with child in arms steps out of frame and traverses the greenspace, sprinting at the end to escape the attention of a curious bee.

From iconic to laconic, the bodies who came from bodies lounge and amble, toddle and trot. Sunday in the park with gorge — and gorgeous. Trees are labeled with large tags from Morton Arboretum, as if priced for sale, but the amount reflects instead an accounting of energy savings from shade cast, carbon guzzling and stormwater sucking. A hackberry will provide $141 in benefits this year alone.

Kidless couples pass through on their way to or from parenthood — or having chosen a childless path, or having no choice in the matter. An ant wisely diverts around a gigantic kernel of corn left behind by a bird-lady or -lad. Trees with unfurling foliage greet the wind, waving it through. A reader scans pages, his head resting on his companion's bum. Nearby, the door of the free library, sits on its supporting post, door slightly ajar, books inside ready for the reading.

Shadowy figures appear in the forest's gaps, then disappear. Benches, by unspoken agreement, seem to have a one-person limit; the circular cement walkway where small groups walk off brunch, on the other hand, is high occupancy.

Pollen fills the air and the nostrils. Migrating birds flit from branch to branch, calling sweetly, or cawing urgently, for company. This is a day to celebrate fecundity and fertility, May's crowning, the passing on of life to new life. 

On one bench, a granddaughter chats with the aging occupant of a wheelchair. On the next, a mom sits silently by a newborn's stroller — each a composition for potential portraiture. Blue sky backgrounds the variegated shades of green, painted chiaroscuro with light and shade. 

Spring and offspring. A feast day indeed.

Plaques beneath trees keep the dearly departed alive "in loving memory." Helen Callahan lived 95 years and has been gone, yet not gone, for 15. Nudging aside a yellow dandelion, her life comes into focus: "Oh, what joy you have given us." 

Those busied in the pursuit of profit, tempted to dismiss as just another park this placid pocket just beyond the commercial bustle, should seek haven here sometime.


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Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: May 25th, 2017 8:46 AM

nice article Ken

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