Friday, April 03, 2009

Lovely day -- exciting young people ... the perfect combination ... .

Earlier in the day we'd met with a large group of perhaps 50 students from a Richmond High school history class. They'd come to visit the memorial to Rosie the Riveter; the home front women who replaced the men who were fighting overseas during World War II.

I love the "interpreter" role here in this place. The memorial is such a moving site that tells its story so well with or without anyone's help. It was designed by two remarkable Bay Area women who understood their subject and blended their talents so fluidly that it's all there; the story, the feel of the times, the heroism of the ordinary people whose lives were forever changed, but who have all but forgotten "what they did here."

At around noon the second wave arrived to visit this important part of our new national park. The entire city of Richmond with its many deteriorating scattered historic sites has been declared by Congress to be one of our most recently created urban parks. Some years ago Fort Mason and the Marin Headlands became two of the formerly war-related sites to become a "Swords into Ploughshares" parks. Point Reyes and Alcatraz Island prison make up the other national parks in our region. Port Chicago is a national monument with legislation pending that will make it, too, a national park. Parks established in the names of naturalist John Muir and playwright Eugene O'Neill NHP's are also part of our 4-park consortium here in the East Bay. These are the sites where the nation protects and preserves stories of national relevance for succeeding generations. There are memorial sites, historic sites, urban parks, wilderness areas, all set aside by Acts of Congress to be protected for all time. As Ken Burns' soon to be released latest documentary claims, "The National Park Service; America's best idea." (I'm paraphrasing since I'm not certain of the title.)

The second wave of young people to arrive today were students from the California College of the Arts. They're working on a community arts project whose work is based on looking at the city of Richmond as a living entity. They have been interviewing various community leaders with an eye toward developing a product through which they will try to identify which are the circulatory system, the heart, the source of lung power, etc. Haven't the foggiest idea where I fit in with all this, but we spent almost two hours walking the memorial and talking about the city, my work, my feelings about my work as well as my response to the times of my youth and how that was effected by the war of my generation.

I'm never sure just how much I'm able to communicate, but I liked the conversation as it flowed, felt comfortable with the young women and their instructors. The day was blissfully serene and the weather beautiful ...

Was introduced to yam sandwiches(?), and have to admit that the experience was a trifle strange. My Creole taste buds are tuned to hot baked yams smothered in butter, or, candied with brown sugar then sprinkled with orange zest and chopped pecans. I just may not make it as a vegan ... ever. It may be a generational thing; do you suppose?

Meanwhile, it was lovely day that left me feeling well-used.

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