Native Son: Teddy Bears in Tyler
If you live in Texas, you need to see the Alamo, Enchanted Rock, the Bluebonnets, and Tyler in the springtime. I know there’s a whole bunch of other great stuff, but the sequence of massive azalea blooms followed by the rose blossom blow-out is almost too much for the senses. But this year, because of the crazy winter we just had, the two fabulously floriferous events are fused into one gigantic festival of color. And I blundered right into it. You might call it “serendipity;” I call it “blunderful.” (The official “Azalea and Spring Flower Trail is March 24-April 9… but I’m telling you, go NOW!)
Heading for a presentation in Longview, I stopped off in Tyler to check things out. The spider web of roads never fails to blow my mind. It’s like someone took a highway map of Houston and set the copier on 3%; all the highways are still there, just waaaay smaller.
Tyler’s ambiance fits me like a pair of comfy jeans. The pace is relaxed, but not sluggish. They’ve got cool historical homes, lots of lakes, big pine trees, and, of course, lots and lots of roses. AND, everybody in town knows how to pronounce my name, thanks to my cousin Mark Chamblee! (Actually, sixth cousin, thrice-removed…close enough. Mark is a leader of the Texas nursery industry and owner of Chamblee’s Rose Nursery in Tyler.) Plus, Tyler is so cool, they have San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as one of their sister cities. Mucho gusto!
So I’m headed over to the always-great Municipal Rose Garden to check it out, but I’m kind of lost. Fortunately, the coffee’s good, the tank’s full, and the roadside show of azaleas and roses is stunning, so I just relax and figure it will eventually appear in the windshield. Well, I spy a pair of jumbo teddy bears playing in a small, neighborhood park and my brain says, “Oooo…shiny!,” so I pull over. (My brain does the same thing at Buc-ee’s, but that’s another story.) This particular happenstance led to a peculiar happy dance.
Luck introduced me to The Children’s Park of Tyler. It was established in 2004 as a memorial to a child and certainly maintains that focus, but it has grown and evolved into something much greater…a place to honor and celebrate life itself. It’s also just about the coolest little park I’ve ever seen. Giant boulders, waterfalls, ponds, bridges, and simple open space create a wonderland for play and exploration. Inspirational quotes, many of them biblical, are simply everywhere; some carved in stone, others cast in bronze. Beautiful, life-size bronze sculptures of children adorn the park from end to end, each celebrating a different aspect of childhood. And those teddy bears…carved of solid granite; they possess a delightfully-touchable texture and have resulted in the park being nicknamed, “Teddy Bear Park.”
Perhaps the best part of the park is the absence of swing sets, slides, and other playground equipment. The Children’s Park was designed to promote natural play and exploration, allowing kids to use their imaginations and curiosity. It’s the original way children learned about the world. Early Childhood Consultant Deb Matthews Hensley puts it this way: “As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more, except she forgot to mention it’s also fun.
Redbuds, possumhaws, Mexican plums, and other native plants add splashes of color to the park, and connect it to the natural lands that wind through Tyler and beyond. That’s how I learned about plants. When I saw a plant nearby and could observe its features in different seasons, I began to recognize it in the field. That quickly led to my obsession with plants, then ecosystems, then the magic of it all. As William Blake said,
“To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.”
Kids will discover this magic all by themselves, if we just give them a little time and a place to do it. Welcome to The Children’s Park of Tyler.
I need a road trip! I’d love to come out and speak to your group. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and I’ll go just about anywhere…no city too big; no town too small. Just e-mail me at email@example.com and we’ll work something out.
Come see me at Chandor Gardens! Call 817-613-1700 or go to www.chandorgardens.com for details.