Michelle Knapik, Environment Program Director
Yesterday’s dedication of the Scott & Hella McVay Poetry Trail at Greenway Meadow Park punctuated a glorious autumn day with the spoken words of poets and the soulful, reverberating music of Paul Winter.
The magic of the day has been made timeless thanks to the Poetry Trail installation. The Trail, a collection of 30 poems dotting a gentle 1.5 mile trail, is a gift from the McVays that seems a perfect expression of their love for each other, their shared love of arts and culture, and their desire to inspire connections between people and the natural world.
Scott was the founding Executive Director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and his many contributions to the poetry world include the creation of the Dodge Poetry Festival. He is also known for the innovative environmental grantmaking he guided during his time at Dodge and throughout his career. Hella McVay, Founder of the Whole Earth Center and a trustee of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, has worked on a parallel track of building capacity in the arts world as well as in the environmental arena.
Hella’s poetry flags, fluttering in the afternoon winds, framed the temporary outdoor stage at Greenway Meadow Park. Linda Mead, the Executive Director of D&R Greenway Land Trust, whose team was instrumental in the preservation of the park and the preservation of some 226 properties overall, presided over the ceremonies. Linda and Hella, however, are no strangers to the concept of art and nature. They have been champions of D&R Greenway’s efforts to bring the environmental and arts communities together, including the outstanding exhibits that D&R Greenway hosts at its headquarters in the Johnson Education Center.
The crowd listened intently as poets and educators read their own works and the works of poets passed. Jim Haba, the former Poetry Program Director at Dodge read Lucille Clifton’s Earth and his own Eating the Whole Apple. Penny Harter read Owl Dream. Gerald Stern read Your Animal. Mary Delia delivered Vacant Land. Wei-ling Wu, a gifted educator, read poems of Li Po and Chuang Tzu. Nupur Lahiri read and sang works by Rabindranath Tagore. Paul Muldoon offered Charles Baudelaire’s Albatross and his own Hedgehog. (Poets are pictured in the order listed above)
Richard Goldman, D&R Greenway’s board chair, noted that this day was one of the most powerful, moving and significant days at D&R Greenway. Yes, there was applause to acknowledge D&R Greenway’s success in preserving 14,500 plus acres valued at more than $320,000,000, but this day went way beyond land transactions. This was about matters of the heart and soul; it was about laying a hearthstone for stewardship; it was about people connecting to the land. As people fanned out over the trail at the end of the presentation, it was also clear that the psychic value of this day outsized any monetary figure.
I read and walked and communed with nature and people until sundown. I took stock in new ways. There were moments filled with wonder, beauty, quiet and calm.
I saw movement in the meadows, and heard the different sounds of the wind through leaves, branches, and grasses.
As Martin Farawell, Dodge’s current Poetry Program Director has said of poetry, it makes you notice life. I am grateful for the time I got to take notice and thankful for the gift that will make it possible for so many others to walk the Poetry Trail and do the same.
What have you noticed in nature? Which poems or poets inspire or capture your experiences?