Posts Tagged With: Eden Park

Eden Park Adventures

As part of my summer staycation last year, one of the things to which I was most looking forward was going to Eden Park in Cincinnati with my mom and nieces (ages four and six).  We were going to a playground, to eat a picnic, and then to the Cincinnati Art Museum.  They couldn’t contain their excitement as we made sandwiches and packed sketch books and pencils.  Finally we were in the car and ready to go.  I felt I was going on a field trip again.  The expectations of children are contagious.  The sun was shining and we had the fullness of the last day of summer vacation before school.  

The first stop was the playground.  The overlook in Eden Park was already filling up with people.  We pointed out the boats on the river and then went to the playground.  All the equipment was shaped into woodland scene – old tree trunks, rock ledges.  After a brief stint on the swings the girls spent a good half hour climbing and imagining on the ‘trees’ and ‘rocks’ – and even involved other kids in their games.  No one was left out.

It was hard to tear them away to eat, but we finally convinced them to come see the ducks and geese in the pond.  On the way we stopped to get the food and found a table where we could watch the birds.  We took out the food – peanut butter sandwiches, juice boxes, spotted cheese (co-jack) – and ate.  However, watching the birds was more interesting than finishing lunch.  One crust thrown soon led to others and a visit by a gaggle of geese.

On the way to the Art Museum, the girls noticed a greenhouse, the Krohn Conservatory, and asked to stop.  Immediately out of the car, the four-year old saw a butterfly bench and wanted a picture taken by it, so there they posed for the first of many pictures.  In we walked and they were awed by the colorful flowers – look here, what is that?  Don’t touch the sharp cacti, let’s see the waterfall, look at the mouse.  Isn’t that fish large?  There’s a mermaid.  Where?  So much to see.  It must seem like a virtual jungle to children.  Outside they saw footprints painted on the sidewalk and had to follow them.  Everything was a potential adventure.

Into the car one more time and finally off to the Art Museum.  This place was familiar to them.  They remembered the blue Chihuly chandelier hanging in the lobby.  We had to detour through different galleries this time, which caused some discontent and near tantrums.  But we soon came upon kid friendly, touchable exhibits and all was right for awhile.  As we came out of the detour, they noticed the Miro mural for the first time and exclaimed about its bright colors and shapes.

Up the stairs we went to galleries where they could sit and draw.  They weren’t really copying any of the paintings before them, but engaged in their own drawings.  Gardens this time, reflecting the ones they had just seen at the Conservatory.  A jigsaw puzzle in one room brought us to another stop.  After awhile exhaustion overcame them.  Our time ended with a visit to the Damascus room.  A wood paneled room from the city of its name – decorated with exquisite painting and surrounded with built-in, satin-covered couches.  It was like a room from a fairy tale.  I asked them what they thought was behind the door.  Dresses and fairies were their answers.  Here the could see another world and imagine themselves in it.

The fun wasn’t over when we left.  Taking a short detour from the parking lot, we went to a swinging platform underneath a large, red steel-beam sculpture.  Gently rocking back and forth we rested.  What a day.  My nieces helped me see the park and museums from a new, wondrous perspective.  They explored and were ready to ooh and ah.  They didn’t enter with any pre-conceived notions of how they were to act.  At times I asked questions, but mostly waited for them to look with their eyes and curiosity.  Not a bad way to live life.

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Ideas in Place

Sitting at a desk in front of a blank computer screen or piece of paper – that is the image of the writer beginning to work.  Ready to dump creativity onto a blank canvas.  But how often does that really happen?  Yes, writers need to develop a discipline to sit down and write.  I’m doing that at the moment.  But sometimes this needs to take place away from our normal environment in order to engage new creativity muscles.

Many years ago, in what seems another life, I had the opportunity to spend a day at an unusual idea generating site – the Eureka! Ranch.  Before arriving, I thought we would be in yet another office space, walls lined with newsprint ready for a day of brainstorming.  However, when we drove into the parking lot it was immediately apparent that this place would be different.  We were not entering an office complex, but parking in front of an actual ranch house – complete with full-length front porch.  Once inside the doors color, sound, and images were everywhere. Our facilitators used a multitude of games, pictures, and conversations to help to generate ideas beyond those that we already held.  It was not only about getting down what’s inside, but providing an environment that nurtures more.

As writers we’re not creating the next great toy or tool or program that needs to fit in with the marketing expectations of the public.  Writing is a solitary activity, except for times of feedback from friends and editors.  Yet, we too are creating a product that will have an audience.  We are looking for new ideas that will connect with other people while still being true to our individual strengths and interests.  What external stimuli help you to make these connections?  For me it’s often a place – especially places that put me in other stories.

When I wrote my comprehensive exams for a masters degree in English I left the campus of Xavier University.  In ten minutes I was in Cincinnati’s Eden Park sitting on the lawn with bluebooks and pen in hand.  Being able to look up and see the sun and gaze at the gardens was so different than sitting at a formica desk under fluorescent lights.  I don’t know if I wrote anything more insightful in this place, but my spirit sure was different.  I didn’t freeze up when I encountered a difficult question and I felt that I was in the midst of serious play – even during a timed exam.

Later, while working on ideas for papers during my doctoral studies and finally a dissertation, I again went outside – on walks, to museums, and even across the country.  At times I would just sit at home in front of the computer, willing ideas to come.  I would also force myself to write and put words on the page – often very uninspired.  But when I allowed myself to go out, something would snap inside and I would picture a new way of putting together the ideas.  At some point in the process I would have to sit and compose, edit, and rewrite, and rewrite.  However, mixing up the places where I did these things made a difference.

Where do you need to go to create?  To the park down the street, the desk in the midst of bulging library shelves, or even overseas.  Places between your current life and the one you envision.  Places where you walk in, take a large breath, and relax.

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