I’m not one of those people who have trouble saying thank you. I say it all of the time. I say it when someone refills my water at a restaurant, and even though they’ll be refilling the water five or ten times during lunch, I say thank you every time. I’m like that, thankful. I also have no trouble saying I’m sorry, especially when I have nothing I really should be sorry about. Like when someone cuts me off in a grocery store aisle, I say, Ope, Sorry. Because I’m from Wisconsin and this is how we can be. But in spite of these easily learned behaviors of which I am proud, I still suffer from an overwhelming awareness of gratitude. One of the great mysteries of my life is that I am at once highly critical and grateful, as these two things have an incredibly difficult time getting along. If you’ve ever been appreciative that your wife made a nice dinner but also feel compelled to point out that the chicken, while cooked, wasn’t cooked long enough because boneless skinless chicken thighs need to be cooked longer in order to break down the connective tissues and that the dish could have used a bit of acidity, then you know exactly my condition.
It’s apparent to me that I am uniquely blessed. I feel that way almost every day as I dip and dabble between feeling overwhelmed with tasks and feeling as though my life is charmed. When Elaine suggested she might have a little bit of grace and was immediately chastised because you can’t have a little bit of grace, you either have it or you don’t, I feel like I have some gratitude but not enough. I’m grateful, but am I? I drove one of my too-fancy cars to my too-fancy office this morning and I made an espresso and I sat at this leather chair and I typed on this big computer and I wonder if I’m really aware of how charmed it all is. I think that I am, but maybe I’m not.
Because of this, I must continually remind myself to be grateful. I must adopt an attitude of gratitude in all things. And if I must do this, then I must do the actions that will lead to it. And because this blog is my outlet where I write as though no one is reading, I will air my various expressions of gratitude throughout the month of June. As with all things, my gratitude will not be uniformly coddling, but it will be present. To start, my appreciation for the city of Lake Geneva’s lakefront.
If you thought I was going to launch into a glowing review of the city’s lakefront park system, you’re only part right. The first problem is that the plantings in the city planting boxes this year feature some sort of palm tree looking plant. What is this? Who did this? Is this Naples, without the Red Tide and stinky backwater mud flats? Why do we have palm trees in our planters? The naturalists who promote native things would be appalled by this, and if they would be, then I shall be, too. There is some hope this morning, as the edges of these palm plants appear to be dying, perhaps out of shame, that they, too, know they are misplaced. Onto the praise:
The City of Lake Geneva is blessed with an abundance of city owned property positioned ideally along the vast lakefront. The shore path is wide and pleasing, the park benches ample, and the towering deciduous trees provide a shady spot to take in those wide water views. In the spring, the bright flowering trees put on a show that adds a punch of color to this otherwise greened park. The library itself was just renovated and it’s beautiful. It was always beautiful in its mid-century sort of way, but it’s a whole lot better now. The magic of this park on the western edge of the city lakefront is that no matter the hustle of a summer weekend, there is peace to be found here. A park bench in the shade and a view of the boats and the beach render the temporary chaos of the Main Street intersections irrelevant.
But it’s not just Library Park on the western edge of town and the beach that takes center stage, it’s the classic Riviera, fresh off a massive restoration, and the park and fountain, the latter of which was made possible by a generous donation by the late Richard Driehaus. Again here, park benches abound and shade trees offer a spot to clean up your ice cream cone before it drips onto your fingers and effectively ruins what would have otherwise been a nice afternoon. Sure, you can lick your fingers and swish them around the riviera fountain, but imagine someone you don’t know watching you from a position you can’t see while you do this sort of thing.
The eastern edge of the municipal lakefront has a continuation of that wide shore path and more benches and more trees. It is scarred by the existence of the boat launch that should not be there (SPOILER: it shouldn’t be anywhere), but Flat Iron park still has its Andy Gump statue and the Brunk Pavilion and those make for a very nice park, boat launch be damned.
It’s easy for a kid from Williams Bay to see the city of Lake Geneva and see only tourist trap congestion. But the city is much more than that. It’s a massive and finely manicured system of lakeside parks that offer visitors a chance to take in our scene for little more than the cost of a parking spot. Lake Geneva is not without its problems, like those dying palm plants in our summer planters, but next time you’re hurriedly driving through town I urge you to slow down and look at these parks and take in that view. These are world class parks in our world class little town and I am grateful for them.
Image Courtesy Matt Mason Photography