This week’s ponderings: owls, a movie, whether we should keep working

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Owl update: the regal creatures have continued to appear annually in Wisconsin since the original publication. Photo below by Tim Krause. Photo of owl in field by Christina Streiff.

Being a column about recreation, this is also where we consider important questions of life. The word “recreate” is, after all, literally about reviving and remaking ourselves.

Here we ruminate on issues related to play and work, meaning and meaninglessness, our use of time, and whether a colonoscopy is more fun than hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We have both little questions and big questions.  The little ones:  Why do the snowy owls keep coming back, and is the movie “A Walk in the Woods” worth seeing?  We’ll get to those.

The big one, which only readers can answer for themselves, is this.

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A little more Friday good news from foreign lands

A thing of the past in Central Park. (New York Times photo)

A thing of the past in Central Park. (New York Times photo)

What a great end to the week it’s been for folks who see beyond their own personal leanings or pocketbooks.  The Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on health care and gay rights were absolutely the right things to do; for many people, they were also quite unexpected, and I count myself in that group.

Maybe it’s just being a resident of a state that has gone bass-ackwards in the last five years.  In education, natural resources and parks, health care, and social services, it seems we’ve done all the wrong things.

I’ve lowered my expectations to the point that seeing a public institution genuinely act in the public interest is a jaw-dropping experience. Mine hit the floor so hard and often this week that I’m fortunate to have teeth left.

Lost in the really big news this week is a smaller story out of New York City, a place as urbane and symbolically far removed from Wis-Gone-Sin as you can get and still stay on the same continent. Central Park has been closed to cars, starting this evening.

The New York Times quoted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s written statement on the closure.  “Like all public space, our parks have a lot of demands put on them,” the mayor said. “But traffic shouldn’t be one of them. Our city needs places where kids can run around safely, where people can jog or go for a walk after a long day of work and not have cars racing by five feet away.”

If you love parks and the outdors, this is great news. If you care about the health of people and cities, this is great news.

Yes, Virginia (and Wisconsin) ... people can be really happy when we do the right things.

Yes, Virginia (and Wisconsin) … people can be really happy when we do the right things. (New York Times photo)

Ultimately, the vast majority of people probably fit into at least one of those two groups, although some people in them may forget about those values when short-term or profit-oriented factors come into play.

That’s why it’s so delightful to see this change made for the good of all.  Like social stability and good health care, our parks and public spaces, even if not all of us use them, bring untold value to our shared communities.

Let’s hope more of our so-called leaders in Wisconsin start getting the message.

Good news is a reminder to all of us that we can help these things happen. Speak up. Keep up the pressure.

Maybe we can make our state part of the nation again.