I will walk every day.
The reader may note that I use the future tense of this English modal verb. I will—no room here for won’t because that is not my intention—walk the beautiful park just a few steps from my home on a daily basis. Every day. I love the strong structural feeling that statement connotes. There, now that I’ve told you I will do this, it will be undoubtedly good for me.
Due to historical circumstances, brilliant positioning and my own good luck, the house that P.T. Barnum built, “Waldemere,” for his niece (or granddaughter, or grandniece, depending upon who tells the story) is adjacent to the stunning, three-mile long “Seaside Park,” the first “rural,” marine park in the United States.
Thanks to faculty member Eric Lehman’s fascinating book, Bridgeport Tales from The Park City, I’ve learned that just after the Civil War, Frederick Law Olmsted was hired to plan this exciting development. A drive and walk were created that are extant today and “Mirror Lake” was dug, a seawater pond that lies just a few yards away from the University’s first-year dorms. I love looking at Mirror Lake with its constant bevy of Canadian geese, seagulls, ducks and alternating feathered visitors; their honking and quacking is a constant, yet soothing, cacophony when I read in my bedroom at home.
When I dined with our first-year students the other evening, I asked them what was most surprising about the University. They all agreed it was the preponderance of wildlife—the turkeys, the albino squirrel, the deer, the fox, and of course, all the birds. They were awed with this first experience of living peacefully alongside the natural world. How glad I was to hear that not only did they notice how special our location is, but how much they were enjoying it. One student confided that she found the nighttime quiet unsettling at first. She was used to car horns and traffic noise. Now, she loves “listening to nothing at all.”
When completed in the nineteenth century the Seaside Park boasted a bandstand, and I can attest that the latest iteration is well used. The new American sport “base ball” was played there as well. How fitting that the City of Bridgeport and the University created a stunningly beautiful new ballpark that will see its debut this spring. Hit the ball hard enough and it will land in the Sound. No other University can make the same claim.
As Eric notes, the Park was intended to serve the people of Bridgeport and its “diverse, interclass, and interethnic democratic culture.” I was struck by how apt the description is today, and how fortunate we all are.
This morning, Armistice Day, I thought about the symbolism of numbers, the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month. My father served in World War II and he tended to keep quiet about his service. I first learned about Armistice Day when I read Wilfred Owen’s poetry as an undergraduate student. I was drawn to the terrible beauty of his poetry and memorized his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The last four lines meant a great deal to me, a child who grew up watching the Vietnam War on television in silence with her father:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
As I walked along the empty park, watching the sun play on the water and feeling the cold breeze brush my cheek, I remembered what America’s poet Walt Whitman had to say about war, “Peace is always beautiful,” and I lifted my gaze just beyond Long Island and kept my eye fixed on the horizon.