Jenna Kowaleski: Remember to stop and smell flowers, watch sailboats in Duluth
I live in a lovely city, but it’s our community that makes it beautiful. And, sometimes, it can be too easy to dwell in its faults.
DULUTH — It’s a perfect summer Wednesday evening and I’m on my way home. I drive through a green light at the intersection by First United Methodist Church and start to weave down the hill, catching a breathless view of our beautiful city spilling into Lake Superior. The sun’s final rays catch in the twilight sky, glittering at the edge of the horizon, where the calm lake and cloudless sky meet.
And, because it’s Wednesday evening, dotting the lake’s watercolor reflection of the sky are tiny white triangles, racing at inches per second across an aqueous playground. Whiter than even the would-be clouds in the empty sky, the sailboats gather to dance on a glass floor reserved just for them for the Duluth Yacht Club’s sailboat racing night.
I love this so much every summer, and it happens every week.
I’m grateful for the Wednesday night sailboat races, though I’ll never participate in them. I have no delusions of glamour about being on a sailboat, as I’d spend the entire expedition keeled over the side of the boat, suffering as a lifelong victim of seasickness. The only cure I’ve found is to stay on land.
But I love that I don’t have to participate in the races to enjoy them. And sailboating isn’t the only thing that I love to enjoy from the sidelines.
Gardening is another example. There’s something magical about this time of year, when the scenery that I know so well from my daily walks with my pup, usually brown, barren and blanketed in snow, bursts alive with color. As summer marches on, the soft purple lilacs, then deep pink peonies, then velvety red roses, take their turns greeting me like friendly neighbors, their scents following me in the breeze like well-wishes.
I appreciate the fruits of a garden, but I’ll never cultivate one myself. I never feel the calling to spend the first nice day of May in the mud, digging holes and hauling soil. I won’t spend my evenings after work crouched over, pulling weeds. But I love that people do, helping to make our neighborhoods more beautiful because they spend their free time sweating under partial shade.
Though it’s cliche to wonder at the diverse talents and interests we collectively bring to our communities, I’m going to do it anyway. There are so many skills that allude me — painting, woodworking, knitting, computer programming — but I stand in awe of those who do these things and make our community a more wonderful place.
I live in a lovely city, but it’s our community that makes it beautiful. And, sometimes, it can be too easy to dwell in its faults. Many are called to fight for change, and the work is good and important. It’s crucial to making our communities a place where we can all not only live, but thrive.
But, as the daily battles grind on, I find that if I spend too much time dwelling on what’s wrong, I miss what’s right. It is entirely too easy to passively notice a boat on the lake or bloom in a garden, and it can feel like a radical act to pause and intentionally experience the joy that surrounds me. To admire the amazing gifts that our neighbors share with each of us as they do what they love.
And I can’t miss it. Appreciating the beauty our neighbors share with us is just as important an aspect to living in this community as anything else I can offer the people around me. Tonight, I hope you’ll join me in enjoying the boats on the lake, or a rose in a garden, or appreciating whatever beauty, and people, are around you.
Jenna has lived, hiked and written in the Duluth Hillside for a decade. Find more of her scribblings at jmackenziewrites.wordpress.com .