These subjective transactions will be explored in a comparative way in a return visit to Wooster Park during the week prior to Veteran’s Day. On this “pilgrimage” a third monument which lies in the park will first be precisely described. A comparative deductive investigation expands upon the methodology. This procedure begins a process of deriving meanings from these artifacts.
This third monument lies at the northeast entrance to the park, diagonally across from the Wooster marker. In order to arrive at it more easily we take another path to the park. As we enter the park through a break in the fence, we see a large boulder to the right of the path. A student hurries to the boulder and sits on it. Another student, remembering the methods we used at the other monuments begins to measure it. The boulder is three feet long, two feet wide and two feet high, measured at its extremities. A few students lean their arms and elbows on the boulder, surrounding the student who is seated upon it. The student who was measuring the stone has discovered a plaque attached to the boulder. He begins to read from this plaque. We learn that this boulder was placed here to honor some men who sacrificed their lives in World War II. I ask the leaning students how they feel, now that they know they are sitting on a monument. “Well, at least we can sit on this one.” one replies. The other one adds, “There is no fence around this one so its easier to get to.” I question the others, asking how they might suspect that it is a monument if one hadn’t noticed the plaque? “Because its a boulder and there are no other ones in this park,” one offers.
I suggest that we should think about the monuments we visited the last time we were here. I point out that they all look different. The first monument was geometric; the second one was figurative, although it stood on a geometric base. The one we have now discovered is a minimally altered natural object. A series of questions leads to the identification of a similarity in choice of materials. They all utilize nature in some way. The first two with flowers, while this monument, being natural, connects with the natural environment of the park. Perhaps, this is why it also does not have a fence around it.
Further questioning establishes the possibility of using different expressive forms in making monuments. These forms can and do have meanings. If we look closely at the purpose of each of the monuments, who and what they are for, we can begin to understand how these expressive forms work. One student remarks that Columbus took a large risk when he sailed into a then unknown and uncharted ocean. Someone else contributes the fact that David Wooster was a general and must have possessed qualities of leadership. Finally, another student says that these men who are remembered here by this boulder made a sacrifice.
There is quiet now for a few minutes. I break the silence posing the possibility that these three expressive forms have been used to convey three separate qualities. The geometric has been used to express leadership, “And sacrifice, too. Wooster was in the army,” emerges from one of the boys. One of the girls now adds, “The figurative was used to show discovery and risk.” Finally, I conclude that the natural was used here to express sacrifice. It is important to indicate that these qualities are not inherent in these expressive forms. Perhaps, one can juxtapose the qualities and these forms to create a monument that expresses discovery through a geometric mode, or leadership with a natural object, or sacrifice through a figurative statue.
While the students are expressing their agreement, I think about wanting to convey something other than these differences. After a brief pause, I ask, “ How are these monuments the same?” “There all made out of rocks,” one student offers. “And they will all last a long time,” says another. “Permanent,” I substitute, suggesting that this is an important aspect of all monuments.
We return now to the other two monuments to follow up on the ideas we discussed about the relationship of the monuments to the remainder of the park. Here we find the obvious separation of the monuments by the use of fences and a border of flowers. We must also look at how the manmade objects relate to the parts that these fences have cut out, and to the floral arrangements within this area. In the Wooster marker the scale of the obelisk is in harmony with the entire ensemble, taking advantage only by its vertical projection. It cooperates with the plants and the enclosure to blend in an array that characterizes all three elements as the monument. On the other hand, the Columbus statue rises high above the fence, the base, and, most emphatically, above the flowers. It dominates the area cut out by the fence. Together with the large base and the closeness of the fence to its bottom it reduces the plantings to appear more like wreaths placed around the base, rather than an organic and equal element in the monument.
Having made this comparison, we begin our return to the school. I overhear the students’ comments: “This place is like a cemetery.” “I think it’s more like a museum.” “Maybe parks are just good places to put monuments,” I interject.
I speculate further that this entire park is a monument. Physically, there are similarities with the monuments we have studied. There is a fence around it; there are plantings; and there are even manmade objects, like the benches and the water fountain. Maybe, there is even some similarity of purpose. This park can be received as a living monument to past events and to the memories of people. It also meets present needs of people. Citizens come here to relax, enjoy, and share a tamed nature. This greens pace, this living void within the surrounding mass of buildings may be compared to the challenge of the vast expanse of sea of Columbus’ time, or associated with feelings of separation from one’s country, or akin to the uncertainty which accompanies the establishing new political traditions. Or even, an oasis from the grief and anxiety attached to the sacrifice required to maintain these traditions. We leave this park having experienced its separation, recognizing this sacrifice of valuable urban land to our wellbeing. We have been renewed by our study of the past and finally with our connection to nature. I have been dreaming. New Haven.