Like the varying patterns of snowflakes that make one beautiful storm, or the billions of stars in our galaxy, there are many separate worlds of community life found knit together inside a night at Murray City Park.
Luiz Gomez and Hannia Banuelos enjoying the Murray Park Arboretum.
So much of our lives are repetitive, on autopilot; we forget to look up, look around, play or enjoy. But there is something of magic in a park; it creates an energy that brings strangers together, joy to playing children and rare contentment to relaxing adults. On the evening of May 29, 2015 under wide weeping willow trees, hundreds of people crowded together to enjoy a movie in the park, an event held eight evenings throughout the summer at the gazebo in Murray City Park. Joan and Shae Morgan, a young couple, cuddled together with a blanket to sit on and some candy for the show. “I love movies in the park because it’s the official kick off to summer,” Morgan said. Also enjoying the park and movie that evening was Isis Mansilla; she and her family had recently moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “I love movies in the park because they remind me of home: we had them in Canada,” she said, smiling, as her kids dashed around the playground, swinging, twirling and sliding with delight.
Another separate, yet integral, part of the park’s evening life was happening close by at its softball field. A co-ed kickball tournament was being held, where non-professional co-workers and friends came together to play and challenge each other for the much-hoped-for win. Jessica Grayson and her three-year-old daughter were there in the stands cheering on their husband and father. “He is playing for a team called the Recess Rejects,” Grayson said. Incidentally, the Recess Rejects won that particular game.
Within walking distance of the softball field, you enter into another one of the parks, the Arboretum, which lures many. It has pleasant walkways that amble alongside trees with names that sound a lot like candy: chokecherry, goldenrain, maple, tricolor beech and service berry. The Arboretum was officially established on Arbor Day in 1961, and aside from being a beautiful space, it’s used as a place to test new tree species for their ability to adapt to Murray’s climate and soil conditions. Most of the plants in the Arboretum have been donated not only by companies but also by individual people. Each tree in the park is labeled with its species, making it easy, even for a novice, to learn their names as you stroll through the park. Luiz Gomez and Hannia Banuelos were two of those young people enjoying the Arboretum. “I like it here because it’s calming,” Gomez said.
Mark West and Kim Marshall sit together enjoying an evening at Murray City Park after a first date.
The highlight of any evening spent in Murray Park is the people you’ll meet there; they help you remember that the beauty of any place is made lovelier by the people in it. Two of those people were Mark West and Kim Marshall. They were sitting on a bench next to the river under those beautiful golden weeping willows. West’s father, Terry West, owned commercial property on the corner of 53rd South and State Street right next to the park, “before the big restaurants came in,” West remarked. He remembers playing in the river that runs through Murray City Park as a kid. “My favorite thing about this park is that there is lots of memorabilia in it. I have a lot of memories here; it was my backyard growing up,” West said. “And I love the running water,” Marshall added. Surprisingly, the two were actually on a first date. Imagine that: your first date documented for all time, with your faces smiling on ink and paper for a lifetime. They looked so natural together.
This world is big; it’s hard to wrap a mind around the space between cities and seas and the vast amount of people who live here and share this planet. But tonight as the sun goes down on another evening, our community is playing together, laughing, having a first date, walking through the trees, or just enjoying the sound of running water. And as the west sky turns pink and swirly, it almost pleads for us to turn off the autopilot.
There is so much beauty on this ancient planet to get out and find, and when we reach out to people, even those we don’t know, we might find not only a charming community park with worlds within itself, but also a park’s true beauty: it’s people.