International Peace Garden really exists.

we two nations
dedicate this garden
and pledge ourselves
that as long as men
shall live, we will
not take up arms
against one another.

Well, P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER has gone international, not so much an intentional happening. Just a zany invisible border that declares one country separate from the other. Perhaps one day we will do away with borders and flags. We could follow the examples set by the IMF/WTO, who have already found a way for corporations to maximize profits without heed to borders. Why can’t we as peoples do this, with intent to maximize Peace, culture and the human connection?

May Peace Prevail on EarthAfter staring at North Dakota license plates the past few days, I got up the nerve to ask, “Why are you the Peace Garden state?”

“Really, we have a Peace Garden in America?”

I scooted up to the Peace Garden from Devil’s Lake, ND.  While this was about a 70 mile detour, it seemed an appropriate one to make. One can’t overlook the International Peace Garden when on a 22,000 mile ride for Peace, eh? You betcha.

Highway 2 led me over to Route 5N, which I picked up in Rugby, ND. Gas stations were limited, but frequent enough. Due to the massive chunks of farmland, there are few roads to take. Hwy 2 is a four laner, with a speed limit of 75, although traffic was sparse, so the road wasn’t stressful at all. Picking up Route 5N led me right into a fair head wind, so the going was slow. I plugged on curious to discover this garden that Americans know so little about.

The dedication of the Garden took place on July 14, 1932, with 50,000 persons present. This is interesting to me for two reasons. One, I haven’t met that many people who even know about the International Peace Garden. Two, the kick-off date for P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER was close to that, July 15.  I choose the departure date in commemoration to Jimmy Carter and his “crisis of confidence” speech in 1979, exactly three years after he accepted his party’s nomination to run for president. Here is a sample from that speech:

During the past three years I’ve spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the government, our nation’s economy, and issues of war and especially peace. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually, you’ve heard more and more about what the government thinks or what the government should be doing and less and less about our nation’s hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.

Sadly, our state of affairs has not changed for the better. Anyhow, I decided that my intentions for this trip mirrored his goal; to engage the American public in dialogue about our future. I also hold great respect for his willingness to delve deep into the true problems that our Nation faces, the fundamental problems, and his attempts to be inclusive. Unfortunately this resulted in his exclusion from political graces.

Entering the Garden was made easy by the gatekeeper, Sara, who overlooked the $10 entry fee after reading my postcard. I arrived around four in the afternoon , on a Saturday,  and was a bit surprised that there were not more people enjoying the beautiful gardens. Could this be related to the employees of the Garden? Perhaps to them, it’s just a job, maybe even an annoying one with pesky tourists?

The pamphlet I read discussed the Gardens creation within a historical context. Dr. Henry J. Moore conceived of the idea; a garden to commemorate and perpetuate our relationship with Canada, and to promote the value of Peace in our world. The Peace Garden made the front page of U.S. newspapers, its existence a product of the times. 20 million people lost their lives in World War 1 and President Woodrow Wilson had recently initiated the League of Nations.

The Garden opened in the middle of our Great Depression, when unemployment was high and people were desperate. The President, Franklin Roosevelt, proposed a plan to protect two resources- our land and our young men. “He proposed to recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enroll them in a peacetime army, and send them into battle against destruction and erosion of our natural resources.”

Roosevelt’s creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the projects they developed, like the Peace Garden,  helped preserve national pride during the Great Depression.  The CCC left behind permanent objects in many states as markers of it projects. From inception, the CCC utilized government resources to bolster the quality of living when times were rough in America and to preserve our environmental resources.

There in the Garden, I struggled to find current examples of such community minded projects which have full support of executive and legislative branches. September 11 pops into my head as having bi-partisan support. Although now, many firefighters are left without access to the medication they need after developing health conditions from the clean up. Hurricane Katrina? Not really. Joseph Albaugh, the head of FEMA at the time, already acknowledged botching the response to Katrina. After visiting New Orleans this summer and talking with its residents, I would not say that a progressive, bi-partisan recovery action has been implemented. In fact, New Orleans teems with corruption and its civilians suffer the price. Thoughts like this were racing through my head as I perused the beautiful grounds.

Time for Peace, yo!

I was also in the Garden wondering where all the visitors were. Apparently, at one time, the Garden welcomed thousands of visitors. With 2, 339.3 acres of nature to explore, it’s easy to understand why. A slump in tourism hasn’t affected the landscaping buget. The grounds are dazzling, featuring more than 150,000 types of shrubs, grasses, trees, and flowers. Several  monuments commemorate events throughout the eras.

Our current reality  often intertwines with a history forgotten. How many people who attended the opening of the Peace Garden are still alive today? Apparently, traffic on the Garden’s opening day was recorded at 57 vehicles per minute. Remember, this was a time when all aspects of traveling were much more challenging. The tiny, barely alive town of Bottineau, were I stayed that evening, was completely flooded years ago when the Peace Garden opened. All town services were closed July 14, 1932 . Would Starbucks do such a thing today for its employees? Would people want them to? I might not even want such an inconvenience like that.

The afternoon sun offered warmth and cast an amber hue onto the grounds. I had packed a stack of postcards with me, so I scurried around locating people. I was only able to distribute about 12, but I did enjoy several conversations.Garden and Visitors

One elderly gentlemen sat on a bench enjoying the view with his wife. He commented that I was young enough to be an idealist. That particularly saddened me–not the first time I’ve heardit proposed that idealism is only an attribute of the young.

Apparently,  ahead in my future, lurks a magic age when I will give up caring and believing in change for humanity. Hey, maybe in ten years I will read this blog and think, “Lord, what an idealist!” Seriously though, I listened to his perspectives–he was old enough to have visited the Garden’s opening as a child. While this gentlemen has witnessed big changes in our technologies, he has also seen multiple generations face the same problems.

Nancy, my hostess extraordinaire in Missoula, commented on meeting “war weary” adults. I realized that in my living, there have only been two wars (not counting invasions). Vietnam ended in my first year alive, so it’s not included in my tally. Two wars is still two many for me. But this gentlemen I spoke with, he has witnessed six wars, four invasions in his living. Suddenly, his curmudgeonly attitude was understandable. He’s war weary.

Our generational differences, how do we resolve them? How do we simultaneously integrate the reality of conflict while working towards a peaceful resolution of conflict? There will always be conflict, but there doesn’t not always have to be outright war to resolve it. My generation–sadly, we don’t really know War or Peace.

We live in a sterile, neon, marketed times;  chock full of product placement and seduction. We don’t even know we have a Peace Garden. We don’t know what’s its like to have every aspect of life change because of wartime. We don’t have Victory Gardens or food rations because of this Iraw war. Our generation simply hands over more at the pump to keep driving SUV’S while sipping a Frappucino, blasting Fergie, and apathetically laughing at the President.

We can not cultivate a deep national pride through consumerism gadgets. Yea, it might seem like I am pointing one finger, but I pointed it at myself a long time ago. I sold my car. I began walking and biking everywhere.  Ten years later I eventually got a scooter. I don’t shop corporate if I can avoid it, because buying local keeps more money in my state. Why waste time watching TV when there is life to be experienced?

The way I live came about after a deep examination of what I purchase, eat, believe and teach. These philosophies stem from an desire to improve our nation. It was not taught to me and I realize I am a minority group when it comes to thinking like this. I don’t however, believe it’s impossible for my generation, or any other, to change this course we are on. Shifts happen! See above;  I’m an idealist! I’ve got ideas!

Sadly, I saw no one my age, or close to it, at the Peace Garden. And I hope this changes. When I get back home, I’m going to create one. I’m gonna give Peace some roots in my hometown.

It was a lot harder to leave the Garden than it was to enter it. When I entered the Garden I did not go through Canadian customs. Apparently, since the Garden shares land with Manitoba, I had to go through a rigorous U.S. Customs search. That was pretty fun, with a heavily laden scooter, packed to a precision only I understand.

I chatted with the customs officials about my trip. All in all it was a nice enough encounter. Their line of questioning was very detective like though; very deadpan and every question seemed loaded. I felt like they were going to catch me in the act, though I had done nothing wrong. The nice official couldn’t get the compression sack back on the bike, or the SHAD case closed, but he apologized.

The rummaging through the saddlebags completely off balance. I wasn’t planning on getting very far that night anyways. The search had taken an hour and the sun was beginning its quick descent, so I decided to stay in Bottineau for the night. The next morning I set out for Montana and covered about 358 miles. There was nothing spectacular along the route, but the landscape began changing as I entered Montana. Cornfields finally gave away to rolling hills covered in grain–and thankfully, the smell of poop was gone!

Next update: Circle, MT and the beginning of my full week in the grand state of Montana.

6 Replies to “International Peace Garden really exists.”

  1. That is an astute point. Perhaps. What about all the people who don’t know about it, though? Did you know we had one?

  2. I’m 46 and am slowly returning to my idealism. Your excellent thoughts are helping me shape my views. I’ve worked in the corporate world for 20+ years. After the Iraq war started, I reevaluated my life, quit the corporate world, and changed many of my habits (esp. consumer).
    I’m struggling to make a living thru art – including peace vessels and message bowls (ex: peace). Having only a few friends that support me, I still struggle with finding a community in S.Fl and also struggle with living with those who focus on materialism. But, I still go on. It’s hard being on the “outside”.
    Howvever, over the past 2 years, this journey has taught me more than 20 yrs of working to make money. This in itself, is keeping me going. I’d love to visit the peace garden this year. Thanx for sharing it with us…

  3. I hope that your voyage to the Peace Garden was a metaphor for life.
    You are right, our generation knows no peace, nor war. We don’t know joy or pain…we just exist in this world, allowing the most seductive fad to carry us to the next great thing.
    I hope PEACE is harder to leave than it is to get to.

  4. No, I didn’t know we had that one. There is a small garden of peace at the Cincinnati Zoo, which is free if you’re at the zoo anyway, and my family loves it. I suspect $10 per person would limit many families from going, it adds up. To me a nominal fee like many parks have would be more conducive to people going and being affected by it. For less than $10/year I can bring as many people as our Subaru Outback will haul into any one of the many excellent Hamilton County parks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *