Grow Your Own in The City — Fruits and Veggies, That Is

Speaking of Hillary’s energy platform and conservation plans, here’s a slide show from the 5/7/08 New York Times “Dining & Wine” Section, entitled City Sprouting and another article today 5/8 about urban gardeners selling their produce. In comments to my recent post, “Hillary’s Energy Plan: Real Progress,” a pro-nuclear power advocate evangelically commented here about nukes being The Way. I’d replied that we can eat more healthfully and save on transportation costs by eating locally grown foods. He had some sarcastic replies about it taking us back 200 years to growing only turnips and bacon. Yes, for some folks, it’s all or nothing.

I prefer the Buddhist precepts of “first do no harm.” You can think of this in terms of taking care of your body, your health, your home, your neighborhood, your town, your city, your state, your country, and the environment. During WWII, there were lots of victory gardens planted by necessity, and in the 1970s some suburban dwellers dug up their lawns to plant organic veggies. The actions and choices we make affect our wellbeing, and can begin with small steps.

Of course, every Spring there’s an article about urban gardens, sometimes about neglected or previously paved spaces being opened up to create them. People begin to feel their lives improve by getting their hands in the dirt, by planting a seed or seedling that they can watch develop and grow into food that they feed, weed, harvest, prepare, share, and eat. Their diet might change for the better, as they gain appreciation of nature, get exercise, and begin to interact with and get to know their neighbors while working toward a common cause. It’s always a small movement, in pocket gardens here and there, but that’s how every movement begins.

If more people got in touch with nature in a quiet, Walden-like way, you know communed with Mother Nature our origin and source, I think as a society we’d be more content and better off. I’m not speaking of riding rough shod over nature for a fast, exercise-motivated tour, or romping around on four-wheelers or SUVs. I mean really sitting or walking slowly, hearing birds and insects sing their songs, seeing the shapes of leaves, variations in tree bark, and the wear of rivers and creeks on a rock or drift wood, the glint of sun as it sets over a canyon, the breeze as it moves through and makes the trees wave and say hello. If each person in our fast-paced world got quiet enough to notice those miniscule worlds within worlds, environmentalism would be an outgrowth of our connection to the earth as a part of our nuclear family unit, not a chore to be accomplished like all others.

After a day of volunteering at Carl Schurz Park, working along with other neighbors, I stopped and chatted with another volunteer. Changing our focus from raking underbrush, lifting our gaze, we noticed that it was one of the first beautiful Spring days, and that the park had filled with sun bathers, baby strollers, bike riders, and people walking their pooches. She remarked that she can’t even go to her beloved park during the weekend, because people’s inconsideration pisses her off. “This guy was walking his bike through a fenced off area where new grass was being nurtured. Another time, a woman just walked her dog through the flower beds. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘Don’t you notice you’re riding your bike in a fenced off area/walking your dog in the flower bed?’ They were so inconsiderate and just gave me a lame answer, like ‘Oh, I thought it was okay.'” Basically, so what.

I agreed, but said I felt it was more than being inconsiderate. For them, plants, nature didn’t really matter, weren’t part of their world, didn’t enter into the picture, they couldn’t relate, not part of life as they know it. If people were connected to nature, and understood how things grow, and had to grow their food or flowers or plants and saw and understood the work, elements, and conditions necessary to do so, they wouldn’t behave so cavalierly toward Mother Nature and her caretakers, which we all are.

We as a people have become ignorant as to our place in the natural world and the nature that lives within us and that we are a part of. It doesn’t exist in a real kind of way. When we take the time, even a moment, to notice and BE in the natural world, as in feeling one with it, we just naturally would want to take care of her.

Life goes on within you and without you.

— George Harrison

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