Water and words

[Oct. 25] We had just about an hour to spend in downtown Charlotte. We spent it walking in The Green, a public space smack in the middle of highrises, just an acre and a half but filled with grass and art.

A central fountain meant for kids to play in was dry, probably to conserve water during the drought. That only made it easier to read the poem written by Adam Lindsay Gordon in 1866, the words engraved in a circle around the dancing fish:

Life is mostly froth and bubble, 

Two things stand like stone,

Kindness in another’s trouble

Courage in your own. 

Or, as Maya Angelou said a century later,

People will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.

This public space made me feel like a kid.

As a kid, I loved poetry, gobbled it by the bookful, memorized the ones I loved best. I didn’t have any fountains to draw me into poetry.

Incorporating words into public art is a way to integrate different types of beauty, and help people see relationships of meaning. This literature-themed park also has sculptures that look like jumbo pieces of paper, with poems written on them filled with angst and loneliness and dirt-level courage.

Two sculptures forming towers of great books made me stop and want to read more of the classics:


The park’s pathways also used a clever combination of “miles to” signs pointing toward other cities, to make the names of great authors – Edgar (Wisconsin), Allan (Saskatchewan), and Poe (Alberta) signs stacked one atop the other.

Nearby, in the open courtyard of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, was another kind of fountain:


Do you see the water?

It’s cascading over those two framed spaces, which appear golden in this photo because the sun was hitting them.

From a closer angle, you can see the reflection of sky, clouds, and trees:


And if you get closer still, you can frame the reflection to make its own painting, as in the featured image at the top of this post.

Water is nature’s painter. It can blend color and make abstract the sharpest shapes. The abstractions fire our imagination and give life to words.

We need water, and we need words. Creating public spaces made of water and words brings us together in this common ground.

Today’s penny is a 2002, the year that The Green opened. The property is owned by Wells Fargo.