Braided Essay: Silverwood Park Responds to Dane County Parks Hours, Rules, & Information

By Sarah White

In my writing, I’ve begun to play around with patterns; one is the Braided Essay, a form that invites the weaving of a personal narrative with outside information that takes on more resonance as the essay unfolds. The following is an attempt written for a recent class I took with titled “I to Eye: Integrating Research Into the Personal Essay.” In that class, I focused on writing about Silverwood Park, one of the most recent in the Dane County, Wisconsin parks system, where I have been volunteering since last July.

This is my land, my Silver Wood. If your heart is hurting, if your soul is troubled, I offer my comfort. If you are bored, I’ll divert you. If you have been too sedentary, let me put you in motion. Recreation is what I’m here for. Plus education and agriculture—aspects you won’t find in many of the 26 parks in the Dane County system. I have over 200 acres of farmland and 100 acres of woods, bordering a small lake.

Most of my forest has been restored to native-only plants and trees, thanks to the volunteers who groom me. I am shapely, thanks to the glaciers that passed this way, full of slopes and glades. Because I drape myself over a high ridge, I am breezy and cool, even on the hottest days. You can see for miles from my brow. Join me here and experience my welcome.

Dane County Parks Hours, Rules & Information

Report an Incident or Emergency

To contact the police, call 911 (Emergency) or (608) 255-2345 (Madison Police non-emergency dispatch). You can also report park related issues or incidents to the Dane County Parks Office (608) 224-3730.

If you should injure yourself or come upon an emergency, by all means follow those instructions. But if your visit to me coincides with an emergency of an existential nature, please contact a licensed therapist. Or, for that matter, any sort of healer, especially if you experience nature as spiritual. I hope you find assistance well-matched to the nature and severity of your incident or emergency.

Park Admission

Visiting and hiking in Dane County Parks is free. Some activities require a reservation or a permit.

Have you ever really thought about the words, admission, permission, reservation? Admission is the word for when you check into a hospital, admitting that you cannot for the moment care for yourself, and must give permission to others to intervene.  Reservation means a limiting condition. But it can also mean, a doubt, a hesitancy. Not all who come here seek healing, and not all activities here are benign.  I admit I am sometimes hesitant to grant permission to some park visitors.

Personal Conduct

All controlled substances and paraphernalia, identified in Chapter 161, WI State Statutes, shall be prohibited from use or possession.

I know my parking lot has been a site for opioid sales and use. I want you to know that there’s Narcan in the first aid kit located in the North Shed. It’s a good thing Farmer John is a retired emergency room nurse; most days, he’s at the park working on the perennial beds and pollinator prairies. He’ll be happy to show you how to administer the Narcan.

But really, I’d rather you keep your personal conduct from making work for others or harming the land. I’m sorry if you are so sad you turn to drugs. Have you considered getting out of your truck and letting my forest bathe you?


No commercial or household waste is allowed. All litter, debris, and trailer refuse must be removed or placed in areas or containers provided.

Please don’t refuse to manage your refuse; your household trash doesn’t belong here. However, I am quite willing to accept your emotional baggage. Please feel free to leave behind the concerns, grief, fear, or anger that you carried in.

I have thrived for millennia without “Parks Hours, Rules & Information.” I was home to woolly mammoths and mastodon 7,000 years ago. Paleo Indians gave way to Mound builders on my watch. Ho Chunk would still be returning to harvest rice from my marshes if Norwegian and Yankee settlers hadn’t come along. When George Silverwood bought me in 1849, I was uncultivated prairie and savanna. He thought he owned me and could give me his name. But ever since I was donated to the Dane County Parks system in 2001, I have belonged to you.

How might I be of service?

© 2021 Sarah White

I teach about the Braided Essay, among other ways to “play with patterns,” in my class in Creative Writing occasionally offered through Madison College. Find upcoming classes on my Upcoming Workshops page, here.


About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
This entry was posted in Sarah's memoir, Uncategorized, Writing prompt. Bookmark the permalink.

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