As an apartment-dweller, parks are my backyard. I spend parts of many days meandering tree-lined trails, smelling flower blossoms (or catching snowflakes!), saying hello to neighbors, and watching people frolic and play. I love our parks. They keep me whole.
Walking my favorite local parks over the years, I’ve reveled in all the beauty and fun that parks offer and wondered, Who made these parks? I’ve also marveled at how refreshingly radical parks are. In our urban landscapes—otherwise divided into private parcels—very few places are truly shared, and too many people have too little space to simple be. But we have our beautiful parks, and I knew one day, I wanted to write about them.
In 2018, I set out to do that. A PARK CONNECTS US (Owlkids Books, 2022) began as a large brainstorm—a messy chart of words and phrases describing the myriad ways that parks make life better. I drew on countless park memories—butterfly walks, kite flying and bicycle rides, soft, sandy beaches, picnics and weddings and ball games and birding.
Needless to say, the page was crowded, but I began to see the patterns. There were words about nature, wildlife, and habitat. There were words for diversity, community, and neighborly love. And there were words for joyful play and quiet contemplation.
Draft by draft, I stitched the most meaningful ideas together into a lively poem—a love letter to our city parks, celebrating all the many gifts that parks give us. In fact, early drafts were called “A Park Gives” until I realized that what parks truly give us is connection—to neighbors, community, nature and wildlife, and even to ourselves as we move, laugh, play, meander, reflect, and leave the stresses of the day behind. As the poem came together, I set out to answer my questions about the history of our parks.
A PARK CONNECTS US is simple and sweet, but the journey for me was profound. We owe our gratitude to the leaders and workers one hundred years ago and more, who labored with purpose and vision to create these special sanctuaries and to ensure that our parks would be, forever and always, shared. Whoever we are, the parks are here for each and every one of us. That’s something we should really celebrate.