A Time to Chill: The Meditation Park
by Tim Kern
January 2004–In life, sometimes people ignore the need for relaxation. True relaxation, time spent with nature, not doing anything but observing existence unfold before you. Time spent, whether it be with family, friends, or all alone, with life, true life, not the false perpetual things-to-be-done business of civilization. Everywhere you go, you have to be doing something, occupying yourself in some manner, usually indoors. If you go anywhere, you are a consumer. I happen to know that the extortion hut of Chuck E. Cheese’s charges for balloons. You have to be drinking coke, wearing Nike, and eating Slim Jims to be of any value at all. People are beginning to take nature for granted, as something that is seen too much to be appreciated. The quiet existence of life is not important, it has to be buzzing, flashing, and possibly screaming obscenities to be worthwhile. Simple joys, such as the sound of the wind whistling through the trees, the gentle song of neighborhood birds, and the pastel blue glow of a sunny days sky do not matter. I just moved into a house recently and after spending a large amount of time observing and coexisting, as best I can, with nature have realized that after four weeks of residing there that I have only seen one of my neighbors, not counting children, outside of her house, and it was obvious that she was not enjoying it.
She had one of the most sour looks on her face that I have ever seen. There are a few places that are different, however, and people just sit back and watch the nothing, and see something in it. They realize that the best structure does not come from man, it was there before and will be there long after. I know one, just down the street, a City of Houston public park, if that’s what you want to call it. Its official name is Helen’s park, and it’s a meditation park. Please do not let the word park throw you. This lot is for sheer relaxation, meditation, and other rudimentary activities. On going here, do not expect to do much of anything more than sit down and watch the clouds, because horseplay is not allowed and you will probably be kicked out. This is the meditation park and that kind of stuff will not fly.
The park security takes the word meditation seriously, and isn’t reluctant to give the boot. It is possible go after hours and there will be no security, but try to keep the horseplay down. Loudness and tomfoolery are not appreciated, and if it is going on and I am there, you will get a stern talking to. Just the other day I had to reprimand a group of teens that were driving erratically and screeching their tires in the parking lot. Hopefully other locals will carry on in my footsteps, although it is the meditation park and probably has too mellow a common caller.
This park, though small, has many enclosements and hiding holes, so you will need instructions to get to the best places. First, since you will probably walking in on the Stella Link entrance, you will come to a fork. Enjoy this brief pause in decision to survey the floor tiling, the various shrubs, trees, flowers, herbs, plants, mosaics on the nearby walls and pillars, and the nature of the two paths.
The triple layering on small tree heading, mid-sized hedging, and a low-lying grass or flowering provides a beautiful picture. I prefer the left one because it has more plants and is further away from buildings, and because the right path is near the accompanying office, though it is distinctly separate from the park.
For the left pathway, walk slowly, making sure to examine the surroundings, as following a curving path embedded with foliage, flowers, other plant life, natural rocks, a mellow stream, and, if a nice day, the blue sky with its fluffy clouds. Along this path there are benches, for those who grow weary of walking and need a place to rest those dogs. After your much needed and deserved rest, walk along the stream until it meets with its downhill flowing sister at a calming junction and pass it, then jump across the stream, and lie on the green comfy grass, and enjoy the sky, which is completely allowed by the extremely picky park security. Listen to the calming rush of the water in the rivulet as its motion passes you by. Make sure to look all around at the soothing plants, grasses, bushes, and topiaries. The vibrant greens, pinks, yellows, and other colors seem to be natures painting, lying on the museum wall of nature. Sitting here, however, makes the street visible. The street, with its absence of any life, and inability to ever harbor any. The cars buzzing by and the harsh cement all of a sudden look a lot less appealing, yes? How amazing, that this epitome of calming, relaxing environment can be inside such a bustling city area. Twenty yards further is the center of a street, Stella Link, one of the largest and most important streets in Houston, a street that sees hundreds or thousands of tires a day, carries hundreds of people to and from work every day, and if you were actually standing in the middle of, would have any creature a roadside pancake rather suddenly. It almost makes someone appreciate the quiet serenity, reverence, and continual activity of nature, and its way of containing millions of organisms and still not having traffic jams, but only before getting back to your whiz bang life.
If the right one is chosen, walk downhill, admiring the beautiful greenery to the left of the trail. The calming natural colors of plant life truly are a scientific phenomenon. Isn’t non-human life enthralling? On the right side of the path are the benches for the lazy, which all of us need sometimes. It’s good for the soul. Walk along the path until the fountain is seen, with its colorful mosaic statue with complementing waterspout which, if you observe, is the beginning of all of the streams in the park. From here the entire water flow family of this park is visible. This colorful monument, with its round, flowing edges complimenting the trickling fountain is the largest structure in the park. From there a route follows around the fountain on the right or left side, the left, as I mentioned before having more vegative life perceptible. This life is the essence of the park, its very soul and most attractive factor. Either side does not matter, as the fountain is big and round and both paths converge quickly after establishing themselves. From there, step to the left onto the grass and relax, but make sure to keep a mindful eye of all of the thriving plants, as this is the essence of the park. As spotting this vegetation, make sure to remember the hard work put in by City of Houston human resources, and all of the effort that made this park great. Another path would encircle the entire park to get an overview. Instead of taking a left to the grass, follow the path farther. Look left, monitoring the plants and streams, on procession. The calm hybridization of plants and water here are both beautiful and soothing, even to the most tense. Soon the path will have two extensions, straight and to the exit, which leads to the parking lot of this fine facility, or a hard left turn, that perimeters the park.
This path has benches, along with the standard lush greenery and trees. Sit for a while and contemplate the existence of these plants, the bugs that live in them, and even us humans. On taking this path, look towards the water. Visible is the tranquil collaboration of all of the brooks in the park, condensed into one serene pond. Do not forget that even though amazing and original in the light of day, this and every other view in the park is different and independently amazing at night. Upon following this path another junction is formed, just like the last, only this one exits into the nearby ymca, and the left turn leads into the first path I mentioned, only backwards. Either way, you’re in for a relaxing and enriching view of the simpler aspects of life.
To the right of this park, in the next lot is a construction site. Today, the ground is just dirt, as all of the grass was destroyed in the building process. In today’s civilization there is no room for a large patch of grass. A bulldozer is parked in a random position about the lot, leaving tracks from the tank-like treads. The skeleton of a structure is there, its metallic bones visible for all to see. Soon this lot will be some sort of office building, with its little cubicle cells, all kinds of accountants or some sort crammed into them as many as they will hold. Truly, people need jobs, but the cold touch of an office housing is rather harsh to humanity. In more primitive times, people did their work to make a living off of the land, and spent the days in the sun, with nature, and around the elements. One could argue that this was the harsher of ecosystems but cannot argue that it is not more natural.
Every neighborhood in the world needs a Helen’s Park. Everywhere else is a bombardment on the senses in these modern days. It’s easy to handle and to ignore this bombardment, and even easier to get caught up in it, but it does take a toll on us and everyone needs an impartial place to get away and travel back to what came before. To be able to not have to do anything, a sense of freedom that, even though brief, is a great way to gain some piece of mind.
* Contact Info
Stella Link Redevelopment Association
P.O. Box 270007
Houston, TX 77227