Though the weather may not match it, for me, at least in terms of my schedule, early summer has been in full swing. I’m big on exercise, for myself and my dogs. We walk at least 2 miles a day, even if it’s raining. And lately, we’ve headed over to Mountain View Park in Moscow. It has been closed a couple of days, because of rain, but to me, this just seems like good stewardship by Moscow Parks and Recreation. No complaints from me, though my dogs were sad when they encountered the closed gate.
The great thing about Mountain View Park is that there really is enough room for everyone. Kids are there, playing soccer. Older folks like myself are taking a lap around the perimeter, dogs somewhat in tow. My border collie, Ghillie, takes full advantage of the space, running from one end of the 16 acres to the other. Boo Boo, my borzoi, who could traverse the expanse with ease, instead takes on the mannerism of a cigarette-smoking, lazy 40-year-old man, hanging out with the smaller dogs, and coming back to me for the occasional treat.
But what’s really great about Mountain View Park are the people. They are us, and I’d argue not just that, but they’re representative of us. Like most folks in the Pacific Northwest, they’re a bit reticent, but friendly once they know you. It would be totally absurd to say that I ever felt threatened by any of them. Everyone is extremely mellow. I’ve managed to connect with a couple of old friends that I shared experiences with when our kids were growing up. And that’s nice. Here’s the news reports — for the most part, all our kids are fine.
I couldn’t tell you if any of them were members of the Moscow Secret Granola Society, or Christ Church either, because the subject just doesn’t come up. As a columnist in this community since forever, many of them do know I write for the paper. And while I have been accosted for my views in this community in the last year, stepping across the bridge at the park is like walking into another world. Maybe it’s the presence of overwhelming green, but the few conversations I’ve had are low-key and respectful. The dogs run. We talk. No one’s in any sort of rush, and that is also nice.
After two years of what we’ve all been through, whether deserved, enforced, or self-inflicted, the big lesson of the park is that the members of this community are all reasonably nice people. I don’t step over suffering homeless people in Mountain View Park. I don’t worry about gang-bangers selling drugs. It’s almost funny to consider it. Maybe Mountain View Park, all of us with our myriad animals, is not representative of reality. But I’d argue that it might actually be more representative, if we believed we had a brighter future.
Here’s the thing. We actually do. I am not being a pollyanna. I am still intensely worried about our young people losing out on two years of their lives, regardless of age. The pandemic has been hell on small businesses and restaurants, and I plan to mitigate a little of that by drinking more beer outside my own home. But overall, we have a pretty good foundation here. Our social systems are going to need some tending, but our physical infrastructure is solid. And we have a legacy in the area, regardless whether you’re in Pullman or Moscow, of getting out and having some low key fun.
That’s what I’m going to recommend for everyone this summer. As the rain finally abates, let’s get out and walk around. Greet other people, whether you know them or not. Smile more, but not in any way that indicates coercion from a random newspaper column. Learn some folks’ names.
All of us only have one life. Let’s work on living it. Together.
Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.