May 7, 2007
The Peace Garden area of Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna near where I live is a favorite place for me. Indeed, it is a sacred place, a place where I go to walk, to read, to pray, to clear my head and get my soul free.Â Although it stands along a heavily-travelled road that carries commuters from the northern suburbs of the city to downtown, the atmosphere there is so tranquil, so infused with calm, that even I, who sometimes cannot tolerateÂ the sound ofÂ aÂ wristwatch ticking 20 feet away, can feel centered and holy.
This garden, provided by Physicians for Social Responsibility and dedicated in 1993, features three sculptures by Frederick Franck, who died last summer. Above is a photograph I took of my favorite, called “Seven Generations.” It illustrates a maxim of the Iroquois Confederacy, that we must consider the impact of our decisions on the seven generations to come. The sculpture consists of a row of silhouettes of human forms that get smaller and smaller. Although the piece is called “Seven Generations,” there are only six figures. The last one contains in its center an oval space with a representation of a fetus suspended in it. When I look at the piece, when I use it as a touchstone for prayer, a place to begin, it is that feature that most speaks to me.
I visited the place yesterday. I most often go there alone, but I have also been there with others. I have been to that spot, and sat on a bench there, with Ron, and Lynn, my sister, her children, my friend Shawn, in fact, with nearly everyone on earth I truly love, and so I never really go there alone. I arrived yesterday thinking of all whom I’ve been there with before, and those new friends who, I hope, will go there with me before this summer is out. As I stood at the head of the line, something didn’t seem right. I peered hard in the bright sun, and then I saw.
The fetus is gone.
I walked down to that end of the piece and looked. The glass encasement is cracked, and the curled red shape is gone, leaving behind a shadowy gray impression, such as an eraser leaves when it obliterates something from a page.
It doesn’t look like vandalism. It looks instead as if some natural event cracked the glass and moisture caused the red pigment to disintegrate.
I’m enough of a poet to look for meaning and metaphor in this change, enough of a woman of faith to ask what personal message might be in this for me. And I’m enough of a sentimental fool to weep, to think if I’d visited more often I’d have seen what was happening and done something to stop it, to cry come back oh come back, oh I could have loved you better.
This last line is so moving I read it again and again. It is its own poem, as you may have intended, or perhaps it just happened, as sometimes the best lines do.