This may not be a huge secret, but my family didn’t move out to Colorado until I was 8. Up until then, I was a bit of an oddball in NJ. I preferred toolboxes to purses and kickball to gossiping. After school I would swim in the lake behind our house or dig in the mud with my brother, leading to a tug-of-war between said mud pit and one of my brother’s shoes. (The mud pit won, and there will be a fossilized Nike running shoe in a century.)
In the NJ world where lawns are manicured and the houses are packed in tight, it is hard to find a peaceful outdoors space. I was really lucky. Long time Pines Lake residents, John and Dorothy Knippenberg owned a 30 acre lot a few houses down from us and made it into a beautiful arboretum originally known as Laurelwood Gardens. It was full of great wood chipped paths, beautiful exotic trees, and hideouts where I could just sit and daydream. It became my workout arena during the summers, and the best place to walk the dog.
Towards the end of her life Dorothy donated the land to the town, making it an official park. The arboretum had a large burl that they were saving for display. My parents suggested that they have a bowl turned for the education center, and they knew someone to take on the project; I instantly signed up. Luckily I was able to find a lathe to turn the bowl and finish it, but the best part was crashing one of their volunteer meetings and presenting the bowl to Jojo, the lead arborist. Just look at the smiles all around.
I know this moment can’t even begin to give back all the magic that Laurelwood Arboretum has given to me, but hopefully it can inspire some magic for others.