The week’s hot weather didn’t suit some folks but count us as fans of summer’s warmth over winter’s chill. We spent a few minutes one afternoon in the shade of Stark Park.
It happened that we were sitting on a bench dedicated to the memory of Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs, who was shot the morning of Oct. 16, 2006, and died the next day, robbed of too many of his own summer days.
We had just read columnist Garrison Keillor’s piece about one of the main characters in our favorite play, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Keillor mused on how the play’s Emily, also taken much too young, speaks from the grave to say “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it,” asks Emily, “every minute?”
Of course we don’t. We are too busy with our daily routines and complaints about the heat or the cold or the TV blowhards to savor the magnificence of a sunlit sky or the simple beauty of a little child, filled with wonder at the sight of a bird.
General John Stark, for whom the park was named, probably didn’t notice the birds or the heat either on that August day in 1777 when his New Hampshiremen and others routed British General John Burgoyne’s forces at the Battle of Bennington. Stark, however, lived a long life, long enough to see his land become the United States of America and long enough to return to his home overlooking the Merrimack River and savor many summer afternoons.
We should remember to thank Stark and others who gave us the gift of this exceptional land of freedom. And we need to remember peace officers like Michael Briggs, who had little time to realize how wonderful is this earth, this life.