Today is the 105th birthday of our National Park Service! Like many children, my family spent lots of happy vacations at national parks: hiking along trails, kayaking rivers, and visiting museums and historical sites. During the pandemic, the NPS has continued to help me experience nature virtually: watching wildlife live cams, stargazing, listening to the natural sound library, and checking out the video, audio, and photo tours as well as live virtual events. Here is a link to the NPS site.
Just for fun, check out the National Park artwork created by designer Amber Share. She took snarky one-star reviews people had given parks and created a series of hilarious travel posters featuring their remarks, titled Subpar Parks.
In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial (2016), the Academy of American Poets commissioned fifty poets to write poems about a park in each of the fifty states. This project was part of Imagine Your Parks, a grant initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts created in partnership with the National Park Service to support projects that use the arts to engage people with the memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System. Find your state’s poem here.
As part of this project, the poet Arthur Sze wrote about one of my favorite parks, the White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico. He explains that it is …”the site of the world’s largest gypsum dune field. In summer, the sunlight can be blinding; the temperature can rise to over 100 degrees. At sunset, when the sand is cooling, it is marvelous to walk along a ridge, and I’ve used this physical edge to explore memory and desire.”
—walking along a ridge of white sand—
it’s cooler below the surface—
we stop and, gazing at an expanse
of dunes to the west,
watch a yellow yolk of sun drop to the mountains—
an hour earlier, we rolled down a dune,
white sand flecked your eyelids and hair—
a claret cup cactus blooms,
and soaptree yuccas
move as a dune moves—
so many years later, on a coast, waves rolling to shore,
wave after wave,
I see how our lives have unfolded,
a sheen of
wave after whitening wave–
and we are stepping barefoot,
rolling down a dune, white flecks on our lips,
on our eyelids: we are lying in a warm dune
as a full moon
lifts against an an ocean of sky–