*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.
In 2015, I had the privilege of exploring the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve in Grand Teton National Park. The preserve is made up of over 1,000 acres that include stunning hiking trails, among them a particularly impressive path around Phelps Lake, and a nature center exhibit unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’ll admit, not being much of a museum person, when my dad suggested that we visit an indoor exhibit when we could immediately take to the trails instead, I wasn’t overly enthused. What I expected was a typical visitor center with some information about the Rockefellers accompanied by photos and a park ranger to answer questions. What I found there instead was an unforgettable and richly sensory space, and what I now think of as my favorite sections of Grand Teton National Park.
The exhibit included the things I expected, but it also had a warm, welcoming and beautiful library that offered a broad selection of environmental literature and nature writing. More impressive was the sensory exhibit that could just as easily be a meditation space, where you can sit and view a rotating display of park images while you listen to life-like audio of elks bugling and snow falling. If you were to close your eyes, you would easily think you were outside. But for me, the awe moment was when I realized that we were guided through the entire exhibit, line by line, by a poem written by my favorite author, Terry Tempest Williams.
In her book, The Hour of Land, Williams describes her work with the team that created the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve and says they were people who “were committed to feeling the land, not just using it.” That quote is the best way I can think of to describe the space they have since shared with the world. In the preserve, whether outdoors or in, you feel the land, a tribute not only to the wild place it celebrates but to Laurence Rockefeller himself, whose interest in meditation is reflected in the very essence of the place that bears his name.
The Laurance Rockefeller Preserve is a remarkable example of creativity at work on so many levels. From space planning, to land preservation, to the words the bind the exhibit, the long-view vision that created this place is extraordinary in its scope, and yet its effect on visitors is a sense of humble, reverent peace. The following is the text of the poem that compelled me to love this place. And if you decide to read more by Terry Tempest Williams, I guarantee that many of her words will live inside you long after you first read them.
A Meditation on Phelps Lake
by Terry Tempest Williams
(text translated line by line from the walls of the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve)
A feather floats on Phelps Lake-
a cradle of light
rocking with the breeze.
Wind speaks through pines.
Light animates granite.
An Eagle soars – its shadow crosses over us.
All life is intertwined.
We see the Great Peaks
mirrored in water-
Reflection Leads us to restoration.
Nature quiets the mind
by engaging with an intelligence
larger than our own.
Mindful of different ways of being,
Our awareness as a species shifts-
We recognize the soul of the land as our own.
The path of wisdom invites us
to walk with a humble heart
recognizing the dance
between diversity and unity,
action and restraint.
The Scales of Nature
will always seek equilibrium
A feather can tip the balance.