Who does not identify with a plant that is able to thrive even in the bleakest of settings? Do we not all struggle to succeed in spite of our environment? So finding a healthy green plant growing out of a crack in the sidewalk is a good sign, right? — a situation with which we can all sympathize, we who do so well with so little?
Here is what I wrote in my weekly Photo Prayer, my thought taking two different paths:
A plant thriving where it does not belong is a bad sign to those who hope for a thriving city. Growing from a crack in the sidewalk, these green glorious leaves are a sign of neglect by the tenant, indifference by the owner, and inaction by local government. Why are they letting the rot spread unchecked? Why are they letting nature run wild? Nature wants all the East Coast covered by forest just as it was five hundred years ago, not a place for us humans, not in our numbers. That’s one interpretation of this sign. Another is simply that this plant is telling us a garden should be here rather than a sidewalk. Do you think the tenant, owner, or municipality will mind if we tear up the concrete and bring in some garden soil? Let’s ask!
Replacing the sidewalk here with a garden is a good idea particularly because North Shipley Street in Wilmington, Delaware cannot decide whether it is a city street with storefronts or if it is an alley of back doors and trash cans. By some historical accident, buildings that front Market Street have their back ends on Shipley Street. For blocks, one side of Shipley Street displays the ugly butt ends of buildings to the fronts of buildings on the other side of the street. Those building fronts try to maintain some dignity while the other side of the street moons them, architecturally speaking.
So, shall we ask for gardens instead of sidewalks on the mooning side of the street? There are ears willing to listen, at least in government, which has declared this area an arts district. But when I say, “Let’s ask!”, who is this “we”? It probably does not include you and I cringe at the idea that includes me. I do not have the time or, more to the point, the enthusiasm. I do not even live in Wilmington!
I know what it is like to ask, to try to make an idea a reality. It means getting others on board. Since I am a member of a church that fronts Shipley Street, I would start there by asking the Vestry of the church to accept my idea. Actually, I would have to start by learning if the idea has already been considered and if the problem is worth fixing, by learning what objections the tenants and owners might have, by learning what other cities have done, and by figuring out who would maintain the gardens once the sidewalks were torn up, perhaps piecemeal, as each owner signs up. Phew! Who has the time or the enthusiasm?
Want to join me?