James Alan McPherson Park New Sign

We headed over to James Alan McPherson Park today because we saw a news item about the new sign being up and an upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony this coming Thursday, August 5, 2021. The party starts at 6:30 PM and goes ‘til 8 PM. There will be live music from the group Cedar County Cobras.

The gardeners have been busy since we first visited in April. White Cloud Catmint, Allium, Black-Eyed Susan, Karl Foerster ornamental grasses and more were thriving. Many of these are reputed to improve your health in various ways. Obviously knowledgeable, those cultivating this communal garden also posted a sign, “Garden Guru” and are eager to teach.

Sena cooked a delicious soup, using Gumbo File, in honor of McPherson. While you couldn’t call it gumbo, it was hearty and file is tasty. By the way, despite what you may read on the web, file is not illegal and does not cause cancer. File is produced from sassafras leaves which don’t contain safrole, a carcinogen banned by the FDA since 1960.

There is a story told by the head of the University of Iowa literature professor Ed Folsom that McPherson, apparently an excellent cook, helped sooth the tension between the Iowa Writers Workshop and the English Department. When it got to an intense pitch, McPherson said softly, “I think we need to have some gumbo.” He invited members from both organizations to his house for gumbo. And he explained how the roux held all of the wide diversity of tastes together. It may have been his metaphor for how a house divided could blend together better and be more harmonious. Ed asked him if that was the case—and McPherson said he was just talking about gumbo. Anyway, things got easier between the two departments.

Folsom summarized what McPherson did, which was to find a way to bind the soul and the body together.

It’s a little like the Men in Black movies in which eating pie (“We need pie”) was a way to solve particularly difficult crimes involving aliens and humans. You did it by doing something completely at odds, apparently, with the usual kind of problem-solving skills and strategies. You did it by introducing a diversity of approaches by a diversity of persons, baking in a sense of humor, and patiently allowing the non-logical eureka moment to evolve.

Maybe we need something like McPherson’s gumbo moment here and now in our planet’s present madness.

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