On a bench shielded from the afternoon sun by seven cottonwood trees, Mother and I watched the parade of boats, birds and people alongside Lake Macatawa for years. The only bench on the south side of the lake offering such protection from the afternoon sun, it was a favorite. We called it “Cottonwood Corner.”
Mother wrote a poem about it titled “Peace and Tranquility”—for surely the bench offered that to all who paused along the Heinz Walkway to savor a summer afternoon.
And then one October day, the trees were gone. Several showed signs of disease last summer—so we were not surprised. But we were crushed. Without shade to protect eyes increasingly sensitive to light or paper-thin skin susceptible to cancer, how could we enjoy the lake?
Thanks to the many people who have read our book, Miracle Within Small Things, or heard our story about the importance of making nature more accessible to seniors, we had money to replace the trees—to save one of the few shaded benches in the area. But how to make it happen?
I have heard from several people it took years and lots of frustration to get their cities to add a bench or a tree—features they were willing to fund to honor a loved one. And then I heard from others, it was easy. The difference—Chicago, Saugatuck, Muskegon—have an online donor application process in place to manage requests.
Holland does not.
Fortunately, Ken Freestone, a former city council member, came to our aid—setting up a meeting with Andy Kenyon, the director of the Holland Parks and Recreation Department. In less than a minute, we had our trees—new maple trees that will be planted along the Heinz Walkway this spring!
As Holland is in the final two weeks for public comments on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, if you live in Holland or have ever visited its many parks, please send an email to Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to January 12th.
Message: Please adopt an online donor program to make it easier for people or organizations to donate senior-friendly benches and trees to our parks. It will help make nature accessible to everyone, regardless of age.
It’s a message that should go to all community governments across Michigan and the country.
While Mother is in her 98th year, this spring we plan to once again stroll along the walkway to a favorite corner, shaded by maple trees. Peace and tranquility are always welcome gifts.
THANK YOU to all who purchase our book and provide presentation stipends to hear our story. The monies will continue to fund shaded benches in Michigan communities—hopefully a goal made easier by community online donor programs.
A special thanks to West Michigan Garden Clubs including the Petal Pushers of Kalamazoo, Carnegie Garden Club of Paw Paw, Three Rivers Club of Little Garden, Thornapple Garden Club of Hastings, the Village of Appledorn, Freedom Village, Hope Academy of Senior Professionals, the Saugatuck Woman’s Club, Wedel’s Garden Center of Kalamazoo, Reader’s World Bookstore (which stocks our book), the Herrick District Library (which selected our book as a 2024 Book Group to Go book), as well as individuals who have made private donations. Please, come see our trees in 2024—and enjoy the view from a shaded bench you helped make possible!
Author, Poet, Photographer
From briefcase to pen, paper and camera, one woman's journey to influence how we care for the environment, our seniors, each other.
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The Journey 2012-2023