by W.P. Gerace
A stressed out woman goes to the Park she remembers from her childhood and finds peace.
W. P. Gerace
Till now, Connie thought she had an even balance between personal and work stress, but that fine line between the two finally merged after the week she had this past week. Only three weeks into her role as Principal of Einstein Elementary School in the Center City section of Philadelphia, the job she had dreamed about for the past five years of her teaching career proved to be a bit much. She had two teachers attacked this week, the union demanding she takes action as the staff felt the school was not safe, the state tests were coming up in two weeks, and the Board and the State were on her like a hot iron to get the numbers up, or she would be fired. As if this pressure was not enough, her husband, best friend, and lover of fifteen years, Paul, was having an affair with another woman. Their only child, Price, followed the wrong crowd at school and started getting into trouble.
Right at three thirty today, a parent, Mrs. Haines, a very confrontational individual, thought her son Jasper should be in a more advanced class despite the fact he could barely handle the material in his third-grade class. Additionally, her son was always in trouble. Today he brought a switchblade knife to school and threatened to stab everyone and kill them. Serious stuff, she had to suspend him for a week with the possibility of being transferred to a Discipline School and possible charges. She could hear her sweet secretary Mary who had been in the school for twenty years, try to calm Mrs. Haines down. She practically approached the front desk and attacked her and Connie. The police were called phones were ringing off the hook.
It was more than Connie could bare. Finally, after driving nearly an hour to get away from the city and her life back home, there was the well-known Pennsylvania State Park with its towering maple oak trees. The leaves were entirely in bloom. Just weeks after a round of April showers, everything was blossoming. Soon summer would be here. Amid the trees, a few feet up, the family cabin stood, its quiet little brown building amidst the trees. Birds chirping away, squirrels scurrying about the branches looking for food. A few yards down, she could hear the rushing of the Bucks County Creek swishing about. Pulling aside, she parked along the road and left everything behind. She needed solace and peace. This was where her late father, Nick, would come when he was stressed. She could still see her father’s glowing face, sunburned cheeks, and soft cerulean eyes standing here, looking up into the rows of trees, just staring here for hours. Connie would hold onto his firm hands, careful not to get lost in this place.
State Park was the family’s go-to whenever life was too much. Indeed her father, who spent his entire life chasing the bad guys and ending his nearly thirty-five law enforcement career as a homicide detective, knew all too well how life could catch up on you. Connie marveled at this. He never seemed overwhelmed or stressed; this would be the place whenever he did. Walking through the forest, she saw a bright red cardinal fly through the thicket of green trees, its squeaky chirp reminding her she was not here alone.
Suddenly her stress and anxiety that were bringing her to the point of destruction slowly left her like a passing storm. Her breathing regulated her head no longer felt as if it were being squeezed together between two thumbscrews. The sweat that was sliding down her arms and chest evaporated. Serenity was all about her, and the troubles of work and life were gone. This is definitely what she needed.
“Ah, the breath of fresh air. Yes, just me and no one else. Daddy, please give me your strength. You always loved this place. Please, I am ready to give up on everything, Paul, Price, work my life. I am so done. “ Falling to the ground crying, grabbing onto the bark of one of the trees, she wished she did not have to return.
“Come on, girl, I raised you better than that.” There stood her father on the other side next to the same tree he would always lean on when he visited. Dressed in his favorite casual outfit, his jeans, a plaid shirt, and cigar clutched between his lips, his voice firm as ever, it was like seeing him in real life.
“I am lost. I came here because I know this is where you always come when life throws a curveball. “
“ You are right, honey. And this is the place where you will find yourself again. Listen to the trees and enjoy the calm peace it offers. Breathe in that fresh pine air and listen to the brook rush down the way. Drink it all in, and you will be back and ready. “ Her father spread his hands, spinning around, most surprisingly, one she had never seen before.
“Close your eyes, honey. Listen to mother nature. She is our best medicine. “ His smooth voice was hypnotic to her.
Closing her eyes, she drank in the scenery through her closed eyes. She could hear the rustle of the leaves swaying back and forth. The birds sing up in the branches. Down the way, she listened to the brook and more trees swaying. Within minutes of spending this time with the trees in State Park, she felt so much at peace. Life was good, and she was ready to resume and tackle her challenges.
“Time spent with trees is not time wasted, Daddy. Mother nature at its best. “ Smiling, she walked back to her car.