“These are the stories that allow us to face….not only our lives, but even our deaths, that’s the power of these remembered landscapes.” Tempest Williams
Tempest Williams says all of us have a National Park. The Grand Teton is hers. It is a fierce and beautiful landscape. It is these things, but it is more. It is where she is loved.
On a hot day in July, I am shuttling the residents from their programming at Conway to their homes across the Misericordia campus. The white buses make their way up and down the campus roads to take multiple trips in a circular pattern until everyone is home. I think this is like the airport, all the shuttle buses minus the terminals. Only an airport is a necessary, but not very beautiful place. I rethink the matter and come to the conclusion, this is like a national park, shuttle buses minus the mountains, for Misericordia like a national park is a beautiful place. It is like Williams’ Grand Tetons. It is where you can love and be loved in return.
I think of Tempest Williams. She talks of her beloved park and she mentions rivers and mountains, but more than these, she talks of people and she talks of love. For her Grand Teton makes sense of life and death. It was the last place her mother went before she died and the place her brother took his family before succumbing to lymphoma. It is the place where she knows she is loved. It is her national park, but it is also her Misericordia.
Edward Gehrke had a National Park. His was Rocky Mountain. He took many pictures of the place. In these photos are mountains and lakes, but also there is often an always smiling little woman in a skirt with a journal, large glasses, and a rather silly straw hat that makes her pretty in a certain sort of way. I look at her more than the mountains and realize because of her Edward had a Misericordia.
I look at my photos of Misericordia. I look at the people in the photos. They are lovely people in a certain sort of way. Some wear skirts, others write in journals, a few have glasses (wearing them is another matter) and perhaps one has a silly straw hat. Here in the middle of Chicago with its great towers of commerce, its wealth, and a myriad of things to do, I think the best part of the city and not only the city, but the entire world, is this place. Here are the ones who love me and who I love in return.
Like Tempest and Edward, I also have a national park. I have been to the high places and I have seen water more clear than anywhere on earth. (My apologies Tempest, Edward wins this one.) In this way I am one up on many of those I serve and love, many of whom could not endure the rigors of the parks. (I will qualify not all, the misadventures of the Tetons is lure in some circles at Misericordia.) Even if I had not seen my national park, however, I would understand Tempest and Edward, for I would still have my Misericordia.
For a place to be beautiful, it must have mountains and stars. It must have a great and ferocious beauty being a place that gives us the courage to live life and face death. Such places do not exist without those who teach us to love. They are the ones who are our mountains and stars. I know that place with these mountains and stars and I know I will never have a story more beautiful.