I walked the three mile round trip loop of Belfair’s Theler Wetland Trails today expecting to write about the well maintained trail system, the habitat and the birds. Instead I’m writing about the art and memorial benches. Yes, the trails and bird watching are worthy subjects, but I was alternately distracted, inspired and made contemplative by the man made objects in the ecosystem.
It began at the entrance with a charming memorial called Zachary’s Playground. I don’t know who Zachary was, but the idea of a loving memorial for living children made me pause and wonder about Zachary and his family.
A bit further down the path was a bright green metal memorial bench dedicated to Harriet Root. I have no idea who Harriet was, but the pot of pink flowers next to the bench told me somebody cared very much about her.
The actual entrance to the trail is marked by an elaborate metal gate of native trees and shrubs – a beautiful ode to the art of metalwork.
Continuing down the path are carved wooden sculptures that greet the entrance to the Mary Theler Exhibit Building.
Mounted next to the building is a 27 foot whale skeleton, one of the most complete in Washington. A two year old grey whale washed ashore near Belfair State Park in 1999 and was buried to decompose. Two years later it was cleaned, dried and reconstructed before being placed on display after a dedication ceremony led by the local Skokomish Nation.
Behind the Mary Theler Exhibit Center is a salmon mural of intricate Northwest wildlife scenes.
…..and a Bob Dylan tribute
…….and a sculpture of a great blue heron made of metal rectangles engraved with names.
The next memorial bench was dedicated to Shelley Horton who would have recently celebrated her 50th birthday. I don’t know who Shelly was but my guess is that she loved a party and I’m pretty sure I would have liked knowing her.
Then came an aggregate concrete memorial bench to Florence Crosswhite who must have loved great blue herons. I would have liked her as well.
This simple memorial bench to Kathleen Landrum sat on a small promontory overlooking the estuary. It didn’t need any adornment. Its placement begged for some sitting and thinking.
My wetlands trail walk turned out to be much more than an opportunity to get some exercise on a rare no rain day. Whoever planned for the art and memorial benches turned my walk into a more soul-feeding activity. There were people who cared about the wetlands and wanted to have a trace of themselves memorialized there. There were artists who integrated the wetlands habitat into metal work, sculpture and painting. And Bob Dylan had something to say about the ecosystem as well. It felt like I had company on my walk. It will take community to save places like Theler Wetlands and maybe that was the message I was supposed to hear.