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Where Do You Find Peace?

by Ken Leinbach

Not a breath of wind. Soft sounds of the river flowing over an ancient wooden dam. The dark silhouette of a fox appeared almost by magic on the snow-covered ice. It stopped perfectly still, then silently strode on, scrambled up the opposite bank and disappeared into the woods. An absolute moment of peace… a necessary moment considering the churning thoughts and emotions left over from a very demanding day at the Urban Ecology Center. Where do you find peace? I find it in moments like these, a walk along the river after work. Hard to believe that this place of peace is so close at hand, that a fox is living out its prey and predator existence within a stone’s throw of Cousin’s Subs, Jewel Osco, Oakland Gyros, and Gilbert’s Liquor. Where do you find peace? On National Public Radio Susan Stanberg asked this question of a diverse group of people from across the nation. Every one of them stated a natural place and almost all of these places were close to home. The value of nature in an urban area is tremendous, not only for the fox, but for us bipeds as well. Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, two professors from the University of Michigan, have spent their lives studying the psychological value of nature. In the book With People in Mind: Design and Management for Everyday Nature, they discuss that in the work place, employees who have exposure to nature (even if it is just having a view of a nature area from a window), like their jobs more, have better health, and enjoy more life satisfaction. They have also discovered that nature can have restorative effects … and results in less “attentional fatigue.” Not being a psychologist, I can only surmise through context what less “attentional fatigue” is, but my guess is that it has something to do with the peace that I find down by the Milwaukee River. Antler, the current poet laureate of Milwaukee, captures this peace well in one of his poems: Safe For Now Blue spruce so covered with snow The tree seems more snow than tree While behind the snowy branches Near the trunk halfway up A cardinal perches Watching deepening snow droop the boughs Till they’re snowed over Forming a windproof airspace inside As far as the snow drifted in While light still filters through deep blue Peaceful, still, As wind roars outside and snow plummets Making the cardinal feel Safe for now from the blizzard. I am proud and grateful to be part of a community that promotes, preserves and protects nearby nature in our city, one that provides access for so many within our community. I never thought of it this way before but we (you and I), through the preservation of greenspace, are promoters of peace. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003
by Ken Leinbach