Have you ever sat on the swing behind the Nature Center? I wonder how long the swing has been there. It seems to me it was there in 1990 when I worked at Peninsula as the summer naturalist. I do remember Frank Weiss repairing the swing in the late 1990s, after I was hired full time. I vaguely remember meeting the couple who installed the swing, but I was too busy to jot down any information about them.
There is an engraving on the swing. Did you know last May Nature Center volunteers Gary and Karen Jaeckel spent a few hours scrubbing the wood, in order to make the letters more legible. (Dawn dish soap worked best!) Then, Gary used a fine tool to “re-carve” the free-form routing as best he could. What is the verse carved on the bench? It’s from “A Confederate Soldier’s Prayer” alleged to have been found on a CSA casualty at the Devil’s Den, Gettysburg.
Last winter, a woman recently widowed phoned the Nature Center. Her husband had died suddenly, she told me. They had visited Peninsula many times together – one of their sons had even become a park ranger in Nevada. They loved to sit on the bench behind the Nature Center and watch deer quietyly tiptoe into the meadow, as the sun set. Her husband loved the verse. Could I tell her the verse, as she would like to include it on his memorial prayer card. I hadn’t thought about the words on the swing in a long time. But I trudged through four foot drifts and wiped caked ice from the wooden panels. I could barely make it out, the letters were so weathered.
She and I did some detective work together and tracked the origin to an anonymous poem written decades earlier. Last fall, the family planted a burr oak near the Nature Center meadow in his memory. Though uncommon in Peninsula, burr oaks are found and may become more prolific as forest species change.
The next time you’re at the Nature Center, sit on the swing and reflect on the verse. Discover for yourself which lines from the poem, below, are carved on the swing. Then look across the meadow and see if you can spy sturdy new tree, just starting its sojourn at Peninsula. Over the years, let’s watch it grow together and come to know how richly blessed we truly are.
A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER’S PRAYER
(Attributed to a battle weary C.S.A soldier near the end of the war)
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
By Kathleen Harris