Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stanley’s Journey

Reflection delivered by Warren Brown at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron
Dec. 3, 2006

When I met Stanley he was chopping wood. It was a cold and rainy morning in early March of 1994. By the time I got there at nine, he had been at it for several hours. The old trailer hitched to his Ford tractor was bulging with firewood. Later, as I was helping him stack the wood in an already full wood shed, I asked him why he was chopping more just before spring. He explained that when he got up at five that morning it was raining too hard to work in the field. So he decided to chop wood until it cleared. The clouds broke just as the wagonload of wood was empty. And he headed out to plant 25 red oak trees.

That’s the way all of Stanley’s mornings started. His work was determined by weather and by season. If it was too rainy to plant, he would chop. If it was too hot to chop he would prune. If it was too cold to prune he would mend. The only thing that Stanley never did was nothing. Because as he told it, there was never nothing to do.

Stanley was a farmer. By the time I met him, he had been a farmer all of his 82 years.

His Dad was a farmer, as was his Grand Dad. Altogether, they farmed the same Medina County land for over 125 years. Theirs was one of the once countless small American family farms handed down generation to generation that have all but disappeared from the landscape.

Over the years, Stan and his family raised a number of different crops. At one time or another, they raised corn and soy and wheat. But by the early thirties they were dairy farmers. It was also at this time that Stan started doing something that was unusual for the 1930’s. Their farm had a number of steep hills and erosion was always a problem. To hold the sharp grades, Stan started planting Scotch Pines. This proved much more effective than the grasses that most farmers used. And it began a practice that would later become much more than land management.

By the early sixties, Stan began to have health problems. Frequently, in the course of his work he would become dizzy and then violently ill. He was diagnosed with Maniere’s Disease an inner ear disorder that made the work of dairying impossible. Sadly, Stan sold off his herd and equipment.

With his dairy income gone, he was persuaded to sell timber from the forested areas of the farm. But this proved more difficult than he had thought. Watching as the mighty trees that had stood over his land through all memory were felled, he was filled with grief. And as the first trucks loaded with logs began to leave, he stopped them. He made them unload, paid them for their time, and told them never to return.

Now Stanley knew what he wanted to do. He began planting trees. Not just a few. But many, many trees.

500 Norway Spruce.
500 Tulips
2000 White Pines
3000 Red Oak.
Beach, White Oak, Sweetgum, Red and Scotch Pines, Black Walnut, High Yeild Sugar Maples.

Stanley was not planting a tree farm. Many were species that would never mature in his lifetime. This wasn’t planting to harvest for his own gain. He was planting because he loved to plant. He lived everyday, doing what he loved the most. And by the end of his life in 2001, he had planted over one hundred thousand trees. His 125 year family farm is now mostly forest.

Each of us is on a journey. We trudge our paths seeking meaning in the passage, and a destination that rewards the effort. But people like Stanley remind us that the journey itself IS the reward. And that which we seek, we can find everyday, if we’re willing to see it.

In 1997, Stanley and Esther Allard willed upon their deaths their family farm to the Medina County Parks district. And today, if you travel down Remson Road in Granger Township, about ¾ of a mile west from Medina Line Road, you will come to Allardale – one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in region – including, as estimated by the National Park Service, Stanley’s 100,000 trees.

Stanley Allard’s journey led him to plant trees. He didn’t have a park in mind as he was doing it. But through his selfless and persistent efforts a place of peace, tranquility, and beauty exists for all of us to enjoy from now on.

What do we seek on our journeys? Do we seek knowledge, or power, or security? Maybe we should just go about the business of traveling. Joyfully planting a little of ourselves as we go.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey today.

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