By Vicki Linton
One summer evening I was out at dusk, just as night was falling. Over the garden, just visible in the fading light, were bats–darting and swooping, soaring and fluttering. It was dinner time for the bats and insects were in the air above the flowers and vegetables.
This is someone else’s garden. Surrounded by ten foot high chain link fence, it cannot be entered without permission.
What is the value of someone else’s garden? This one is a community garden but all the plots are taken and only a long waiting list is available to anyone not already working a plot. Just whose community is this garden?
Toward the side of the garden is a sign reading, “Please do not disturb. Pollinators in action.” There are beehives there, a hint at whose community this is.
On an early fall day squirrels are snooping around the garden, looking for edible things to store away for winter. There are white cabbage butterflies flitting about the late blooming flowers. Crickets are singing by the fence posts. Undoubtedly earthworms are plowing through the soil helping the human gardeners maintain its fertility.
The garden is just an acre on a busy city corner. Yet it is clearly a community garden—a community of living beings of all sorts, from migrating songbirds to humans who plant the seeds and harvest the vegetables.
Just a few humans though, in a city of 600,000. What value is this garden to the rest of us? Why not pave it over? A parking lot is needed and the human gardeners will be offered plots elsewhere.
Environmental groups with big budgets can provide you all the information you need on the impact of pavement. “Just one inch of rainfall on one acre of pavement creates 27,000 gallons of polluted runoff,” reports the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. One acre really does matter in a tangible way.
It matters in intangible ways, too. Or so it seems to me. Thousands of people pass by this garden every day. Maybe most don’t make a conscious note of the garden. Still it is there, part of the cityscape that we all encounter. The garden is full of flowers in the warm spring and summer sun. In winter its face is of dried plants withstanding the winds on chill days.
The garden is fragrant with green life: plants respiring, filtering the air through their living processes. Living beings sharing our city with us, life forms that give us sustenance and beauty.
Yet it is only one corner lot. There is another portion of the garden across the street. Parkland is nearby. What is one acre? The school needs to expand and the teachers need a place to park. The gardeners will go elsewhere and so too will most of the bats, the bees, the squirrels, the robins, the fluttering white butterflies.
And there is our world in a nutshell the squirrels cannot crack. An acre here, a grove of trees there; little by little, a new highway, a new shopping mall, a forest turned to agricultural plantation, fields become more city…
It is clear enough where this leads.
But today, someone needs a place to park.
Photo: Twin Oaks Community Garden north garden by Vicki Linton