Monday, March 16, 2009

Musings and Monuments

"The Spirit of Life" by Daniel Chester French stands in Saratoga's Congress Park

Another lovely balmy day.  Chores kept me out of the woods, but I did take a turn around Congress Park.  There's a big patch of coltsfoot there, and I wanted to see if any sprouts had emerged.  These flowers, which many mistake for dandelions, bloom early, long before the plant sprouts leaves.  Or any other flowers are up (except skunk cabbage).

The only thing that had sprouted up in the park was another war monument.  Let's see, how many war monuments does that make now, just in Congress Park?  American Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, plus a flower bed to honor Medal of Honor winners.  And now this new one, erected not to honor a particular war, but all American warriors, in all branches of the military.  There's also a walkway paved with bricks that carry the names of soldiers. Then there's a flagpole and flower planter a block away to honor those who "defended our liberties" in that turkey shoot called Operation Desert Storm.  I mean no disrespect.  I truly honor those who would lay down their lives in defense of our country.  It's just that I can't remember a war (and I'm almost 67 years old) that had anything to do with defending my liberties.  It's been my experience that each time Americans start waving their flags, other people start burying their dead.  And the more inane, illegal, or immoral the conflict, the bigger the flags.  And the more the monuments.

Where are the monuments to those who are healers?  When do we hold parades for those who make peace?  How do we recognize the bravery of those who refuse to take up arms, despite the contempt of their fellows?  At least there's one monument in Congress Park that's not about war.  It's "The Spirit of Life" by Daniel Chester French (the same sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial), dedicated to the memory of Spencer Trask (1844-1909).  Trask was a philanthropist who supported scientific invention, education, the arts, and humanitarian causes.  His mansion at the edge of Saratoga Springs is now a famous artists' retreat called Yaddo.  And his monument in Congress Park is the most beautiful one of all.

Postscript:  My son said, "Mom, what's this post got to do with nature?" I guess I could write a page or two about what war does to the forests, the land, the wildlife, the rivers. The farms, the gardens, the livestock, the house pets -- I could go on and on.  But I won't.  Instead,  I'll just point to that lovely winged figure in the photo: she's holding a sprig of white pine in one hand, a bowl overflowing with water in the other.  There you have it: woods and waterways.


Allan Stellar said...

I very much enjoyed this post. As for the connection between militarism and nature? Jeffrey St. Clair (radical enviro) covers that pretty well in a couple of books and on, which he edits.

The military is the sacred cow of American society. I wonder if that will ever change? Or will it only change when our empire ends?

Woodswalker said...

Thanks for your comment, Allan, and for the lead to new reading material.

I believe that to go to war, we have to see our enemy as "other." Those who immerse themselves in nature often come to see that there is no "other," that we are all breathed into being at every moment by our creator, that we are all related.

It distresses me greatly to see how excited and PROUD Americans get whenever we go to war, that every soldier must be thought of as HERO, no matter what death and destruction to innocents he brings about, no matter how unjust the cause in which he fights.

catharus said...

I share your sentiment!

NatureGirl said...

Well said! And I love your postscript!