22. Rose and Clare are united by a Nashville neighborhood park even though the two have yet to meet.

Rose Jensen keeps a diary.

She is on the eve of her eleventh birthday (in spring of 2018) and she writes short stories about her life in her Nashville neighborhood.

Rose says her teacher at McKissack elementary school believes one story in particular is autobiographical but it is really about Rose’s mother. Rose said she was trying to understand what her mother went through as a little girl so she wrote it in a story.

In Rose’s story a girl living in a scary place goes to sleep and wakes in a beautiful land of blooming trees, blue skies, and friendly butterflies. The little girl has an overwhelming sense of peace and is happy for a moment. Then she becomes afraid because she is aware she might only be dreaming. Though she isn’t sure. She becomes so afraid of waking and returning to the scary place that she wonders if dying would be better than living.

It is a somber story for a ten year old girl to write. And maybe the story is about her mother. We suspect the story reflects something of Rose’s own life too. And not just the scary parts. When Rose writes about nature we suspect she is imagining one of her favorite places, Percy Warner Park (in the Nashville neighborhood of Belle Meade).

Rose lives in a subsidized apartment in the Preston Taylor neighborhood of West Nashville near 4oth and Charlotte. It is a place known for drugs and violence. The police call the area “The Jungle.” Her playground is mostly the pavement surrounding the apartments of the neighborhood and one narrow alleyway that serves as the nightly drug-delivery point for the neighborhood. Rose said she accepts any invitation to get away from the neighborhood when she can. Most of all she loves trips to Percy Warner Park.

When we see Rose there in the park exploring and playing in the early spring it is easy to imagine the story she writes describing a wonderland of peace filled with safety and butterflies might actually be her description of Percy Warner Park. This is where she goes to dream.

Clare Armistead loves the Nashville parks.

Clare, 90 (in 2019), has dedicated a lot of time and effort to building and preserving some of Nashville’s most beloved parks, public and private. She is particularly fond of two parks in her Belle Meade neighborhood: Percy Warner and Cheekwood. Still Clare said she sometimes wonders if she could have done more to help people directly. She said,

“Sometimes

I feel like

all I have

cared about

are

the trees.”

Rose and Clare have yet to meet in person, but they are united in a common affection. The work of Clare to protect the parks has directly affected Rose. And we suspect Rose would disagree with Clare about how much Clare has helped people. Because for Rose the parks and trees of Nashville are a salvation. The park is where Rose goes to be free from the tense streets of her Preston Taylor neighborhood. For Rose the park is a wonderland. 

BELOW: CLIK TO LISTEN TO CLARE ON A BRIEF TOUR OF CHEEKWOOD

Alt txt: Young girl in t-shirt and jeans lies on top of a stone and mortar platform overlooking a vast open field surrounded by trees under a sky of dark stratocumulus clouds. A handwritten note in black ink is written across the top portion of the photograph in the clouds. The girl is in the center of the platform with her torso forward, her cheek resting on the wall edge facing camera and her dark hair falling over the edge. Her face and cheeks are visible. She appears to be sleeping. Her arms lay parallel to her chest with her hands folded and laying on the stone in front of her face. Her thighs lay across the platform hiding her lower legs behind her. Next to her knees is a plastic bottle of water. Far below in the field at left a man is walking behind a child on a bicycle with the front wheel at edge of photo. Far below in the field at right is a parked pickup truck and suv with people on the lawn in front of them. The trees are leafless. Black and white photograph. Written across the top: "She dreams the dreams of every child. The trees give her dreams. And the enormous castle-like stairs. When little Rose escapes her neighborhood, it is to roam the woodlands and climb the walls. These parks are her wonderland. These are no mere monuments. These are portals to wonderful places in her mind.At night when she returns to her apartment she brings the stacked stones and woodlands with her. When she writes her stories of Nashville in her diary it is the wonderful emerging from the park that rises to defeat the monsters lurking in the alleyway. In the past when Nashville grew, thoughtful people thought to save room for the parks. When someone like Care Armistead wonders outlaid whether her lifelong support of the parks has been worth the effort she only needs to meet Rose sprinting, laughing through the trees to know the answer. The expanding city needs places to breathe and dream."

BELOW: Text of the photographer’s hand-written journal printed on the photograph:

She dreams the dreams of every child. The trees give her dreams. And the enormous castle-like stairs. When little Rose escapes her neighborhood, it is to roam the woodlands and climb the walls. These parks are her wonderland. These are no mere monuments. These are portals to wonderful places in her mind.At night when she returns to her apartment she brings the stacked stones and woodlands with her. When she writes her stories of Nashville in her diary it is the wonderful emerging from the park that rises to defeat the monsters lurking in the alleyway. In the past when Nashville grew, thoughtful people thought to save room for the parks. When someone like Care Armistead wonders out loud whether her lifelong support of the parks has been worth the effort she only needs to meet Rose sprinting, laughing through the trees to know the answer. The expanding city needs places to breathe and dream.

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