Our Park and Recreation Community Poem: Everything Around You… — Episode 097

By Cort Jones | Posted on August 10, 2021

Kwame 410 updated

Park and Recreation Month — which obviously is the best month in the park and recreation profession, just wrapped up at the end of July, and I’m excited to share one of the many things we did this year on today’s episode. This year for Park and Recreation Month, in partnership with New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander, we created a community poem — one poem compiled from many voices, about what parks and recreation means to people.

We asked members of the park and recreation community to submit original poems about parks and recreation, and Kwame took pieces from each poem and combined them into one single community poem, titled, “Everything Around You…” So, I thought it would be fun to unveil the poem on a special edition of the podcast today.

You can hear Kwame read the final community poem below, as well as read the full text of the poem. You also can see Kwame read the poem if you are planning to join us at the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference in Nashville this September.

Thank you to everyone who submitted to our community poem this July, and a huge thank you to Kwame Alexander for using his incredible talents to help bring everyone’s voices together into one beautiful collective message.

Listen to the episode for the full story.


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Full Text of Poem:

Everything Around You: Our Park and Recreation Story

You arrive
and everything around you
is green:

The trees,
the flowers,
the very soil that feeds
this planet
and that's just the start.

All day
everything around you
is performing
a classic symphony
of breathtaking outdoor beauty
grounded in the magnificence
of wild simplicity
in picturesque form:

bison, coyotes, swans, eagles
a mama duck prodding
her ducklings
a sunbathing frog
the Lady Slipper
anxious squirrels wrestling
for their fair share
of forbidden fruit.

This is your place.

A sanctuary
of hammockers
battered straw hats
picnic blankets
labradoodles and pugs
toddlers and mums
in blue and red frocks,
the gardener weeding
in mismatched socks.

Everything around you is
alive and well
and it occurs to you
that you're part
of something bigger
that when you step
into a park
it feels so good
to congregate
with family and friends
to walk
through woods
to take a pulse check—slow down, breathe clean air
to be one on one
with the sun
life's rhythm

A day like today
you simply can't stay inside.

Though rain may fall,
on the trail you'll glide.

Everything around you
is quiet and chill.

Days like today
you don't want to be still.

Everything around you is history
Days like today
will never grow old.

O, in my soul
I am a child again

I am nine years old
The paths are covered in brown leaves
They're crunchy!
The air smells beautiful.

O, in my soul
I am free again.

I am fifteen.
Running to baseball practice
a few minutes late again.
Coach smiles
pats my shoulder.
An osprey flies by
O look he has gone fishing.

Everything around you is a bridge—connecting you
to nature, to neighbors, to yourself.

Everything around you is home.
A place we've always dreamed about:
sustainable systems
supporting economies
crossing boundaries
solving problems
a sense of belonging
growing community
a sense of belonging.

Everything around you is a story
is a fallen tree
is a soaring heron
is a lazy river
is a drumbeat of dragonfly wings
is purple and blue hues
is a paintbrush palette of botanical shades
is mountain air, glass mirror lakes, and open skies
is the cold gray of the past year.
is heartbreak
is lockdown
is love
is nature anticipating
is tranquil peace
is poetic meditation
is no more class
is children playing in summer
is hiking
is heat
is hope
is family reunion.

This. Is. Your. Place.

To live
to learn
to work
to farm
to play
with everything
around you.

A Community Poem compiled by Kwame Alexander
For the National Recreation and Park Association
August 2021