It’s a pretty well known fact that Malden is one of the most diverse cities in Massachusetts with residents from about 87 different countries (Nationalities & Ancestry, 2017). You don’t have to work hard to meet different types of people from all over the world because they are all around you. The other day, after taking a stroll through Pine Banks Park, I saw an older couple sitting on a park bench in front of the pond and decided to strike up a conversation. While the conversation didn’t go very far, since they couldn’t speak much English, I learned that they were from Albania and had come to the park to watch the ducks. It may not seem like much, but it made me so pleased to know, that despite having trouble understanding each other, we were connected through our appreciation of the nature that surrounded us. We didn’t need words to share the experience of watching the ducks glide on the surface of the pond (or watching them fly away quickly as I chased them down for a good picture).
And we didn’t have to explain to each other the sound of the frogs, which sound like thick rubber bands snapping loudly and frequently. Or the way the wind blew the trees and the birds weaved in and out and the squirrels darted softly tempting you to turn your head but running away when you try and get a better look. It was a short moment, I left them to enjoy their peace and quiet, but I let it sit with me as I continued to make my way through the more woodsy area of the park.
I’ve been to Pine Banks Park plenty of times, whether for school events, sports games, or barbeques, it’s a place I’ve come to know very well. And yet, I always seem to discover something new when I go there. Coming to the park in the past, I’ve treated it as more of a place where something else is going on. Meaning, I’ve never really paid much attention to what surrounded me as I played my soccer game, or rode my bike around the pond, or walked in the Bread of Life’s Walk for Bread event. But through the eye of the camera lens, and pushing myself to see the park in a new light, with a new perspective, it amazed me how quickly a place I thought I knew became so different. How could I have failed to notice the bunches of unique white and pink flowers that grew along the edges of a path I’d walked so many times before? Or (although this might not be everyone’s cup of tea) a small garter snake concerned with it’s own business, that if I wasn’t looking to capture the park with my camera, I would’ve mistaken it for a shoelace?
And it wasn’t like everywhere I was going was a place I’d never been before (although there were a few paths, land bridges and ditches I’d never noticed) it was that I’d bothered to open my eyes to the ever changing world that surrounded me. I know it might sound silly, to be excited about some flowers, a snake, some frogs, new paths, etc… but sometimes we forget how nice the small things really are.
Sometimes we spend so much time plugged into the internet and are so busy in a forest full of pixels that we don’t always take the time to look at the amazing natural wonders that surround us. We’re lucky that a little piece of nature exists so close by and we’re lucky that the park offers different types of outdoor environments (like a field and playground) so that we can all spend time outdoors in the different ways we like to be outside. It allows us to not only interact with nature in a way we might not often get to, but it also allows us to meet and have a place where we can share these experiences with our neighbors from all over the world. The great part about nature is that it’s universal and it connects us all, no matter who we are, to one another. Both in the larger sense, and in the way that it acts as a place where we can take the time to see the world and the people around us with a new perspective.