Archive for January, 2017

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

My love for parks and gardens is long-standing, and steadily growing (horticultural puns intended.) My volunteer time spent at The Lincoln Park Conservatory reinvigorates my commitment to understanding and preserving our shared home, the earth.

In my ENG 325, “Writing for the Community” class, I include a “Parks and Gardens” week, which involves reading, researching, and reflecting on the roles that these special places play in our individual and civic lives. Through investigation, we discover new types of parks and gardens, including memory gardens for Alzheimer’s patients and parks designed to be enjoyed by people of differing physical abilities. Additionally, students consider their own relationship with parks: the fun, the play, the joy.

We encounter environmental pioneer John Muir whose writings, particularly My First Summer in the Sierra, so beautifully describe the minute and magnificent glories of the natural world. Thankfully, Muir was able to convince “Conservation President” Theodore Roosevelt to expand initiatives to preserve and protect public lands. Woodrow Wilson established the National Park System in 1916, described as “America’s Best Idea,” in the Ken Burns documentary.

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Lurie Garden graces downtown Chicago

Here in Chicago, parks and gardens are enthusiastically supported by endless expansion projects, largely thanks to an 1830’s designation of the city’s motto, Urbs in Horto, “City in a Garden.” How fortunate for Chicagoans that nearly a hundred years ago, city planners recognized and respected the surrounding landscape, and sought to integrate development with stewardship.

The world is our shared home, so no one is as removed from nature as immediate surroundings might suggest. An excellent exploration of our necessary daily relationship with natural spaces comes courtesy of a TED talk, “Nature is Everywhere—We Just Need to Learn to See It” by Emma Marris, who like so many scholars and activists asks her audience to think like a child [and here are her notes—quite excited to discover that TED has a notes page!]. A child in nature wants to touch and explore. Ms. Marris’ statement, “we cannot love what we cannot touch” is particularly apt. When people learn to love and nurture and value the natural world, it can have a lasting impact.

2000px-us-nationalparkservice-shadedlogo-svg_Studying the impact parks and gardens has on civic life was recently imbued with larger significance. My admiration for and belief in parks and gardens has been further edified in recent days, with the brave stance expressed by park rangers across the country, particularly an inspiring statement from the former director of the National Park Service, Jonathan B. Jarvis. How unexpected and spectacular to encounter heroism in a small, yet crucial act of resistance: a refusal to remain silent on issues of scientific fact and historical import.

Now more than ever, we have an obligation to cherish the uniquely democratic ideal of protecting natural resources and inviting all people to share in American the beautiful, not through careless exploitation, but thoughtful preservation.

america-the-beautiful

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Word

Posted: January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Another new year, another new strategy to improve my one wild life: everyone should be so fortunate.

Over the holidays, I spent time in Cleveland, concluded with an evening drinking with friends, Emily and Holly. Holly shared her plan to take on the “My One Word” challenge of selecting one word as her guiding principle for 2017, a yearly mantra, encapsulating the entirety of her intentions to live her best life. Naturally, Holly’s idea invited me to join in the important work of living well, beginning with  reflection and reaffirmation.

Having recently reviewed the contents of my 2016 Happiness Jar, I am keenly aware of the experiences that make my life meaningfully good.

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Motivation and inspiration

In class this morning, January 3, 2017, I sought a strategy to energize reluctant returning students. I began with an honest confession of my own negative feelings about January (wake me when it’s over?). Then I reminded my students that although we can’t change January, we can change our response to it. We can spend more time snuggled up with a good book, or loved ones. We can recommit to our fitness regimen, “summer bodies are made in the winter,”  after all. We can enjoy seasonal treats, too; hot chocolate with marshmallows makes the greyest January day more tolerable.

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I use precisely this many too many marshmallows

Ultimately, we must find ways to inspire ourselves and each other, or being willing to accept an uninspired string of moments that add up to not really living at all.

Autonomy and agency

I value the time and space and freedom that I am capable of providing for myself. I understand the absolute gift this is, especially when compared to what unmarried women my age would have endured in the past. I make my own living, and am therefore able to make my own life.

Community and engagement

My neighborhood, my city, my nation, my world. Everywhere I go, I seek out the manifold, magnificent expressions of a place and a people, articulated through the arts, and in the many arenas of public life, parks and markets, and every other good thing that brings people together. My love of festivals and parades is well-documented.

Connection and celebration

Relationships with family and friends rule. Spending time with people I love is of paramount importance. Luckily, my friends regularly make time for each other to get together to eat, talk, and most importantly, laugh!

Thus inspired, I considered what one word could inform the many aspects of my life that I’m actively trying to invest in throughout the next 52 weeks. Words could be a thousand pictures, too.

In 2017, a year that promises numerous challenges, when far too many will allow themselves to be distracted by what things cost, or how much people make, I will remain undeterred, pausing to consider the fundamental nature of all things, knowing that lasting value has less to do with money and far more to do with worth.

worth