Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not Quite Eden

Chris and I want a garden.

To homeowners in the suburbs, that may seem like a benign statement. “So make a garden,” you might say. Us urban dwellers know that reality is much different. Houses in the city have small yards or none at all, and if you live in an apartment, well, forget it. Community gardens just aren’t the same. But the place where we live – a multi-story duplex divided into four apartments – has a very large, rather untended backyard full of fruit trees and shady trees and patches of strawberries and raspberries and mint. We don’t want just a garden; we want to turn it into a park.

Funny thing about the yard – I’ve lived in the place for a year and a half and had never ventured through it until a few days ago. Trees line one side of it, and the grassy other side leaves enough room to play croquet or lawn darts or have a catch or whatever it is that people do in yards these days. I envision flowerbeds and rock gardens and patches for tomatoes and basil and peppers and zucchinis and all the wonderful fruits of nature that we can grow. I imagine a pathway with stepping stones leading to a bench beneath the shade of a tree. I look forward to trips to a local hardware store for hoses and spades and rakes and maybe even some of those solar powered lights to line the pathway.

You see, nature is tough to come by in the daily grind of the city, even in one with as many green spaces as DC. To the human mind, nature is sanctuary from stress and anxiety, as studies have shown. It’s a real shame that mentioning “nature” invokes hostile feelings in some people. “Hippies.” “Liberals.” “Treehuggers.” I wonder how the natural world became so unnatural to some people. That saying, “You need to get out more?” It’s true. It makes your life better.

And so would this garden, this park, this sanctuary right in the middle of the chaos of Columbia Heights. Well, mine and Chris’s anyway. It would give us a place to hang out in the summer. We could have people over. I could grill my should-be-famous mini-burgers stuffed with peppers and chutneys and garlic and so many other good foods and we could drink margaritas and beers and play music – sometimes live – and have the kind of summer that homeowners take for granted. We won’t run from the summer heat; we’ll embrace it!

Even the thought of the flowers excites me. I want to plant lantanas of all colors around, and I want to throw wild flower seeds in the back of the yard and let nature provide us with a natural cover for the fence. (I hope Chris can put up with my dictatorship over the flower choices. He’s colorblind, anyway – what does he know about flowers? Ha!)

The landlord has agreed to let us do something, though it is unclear what. We’re offering him free property improvement in exchange for a place to enjoy the summer, so I can't see why it would be a problem. We want serenity. We want refuge from our cramped quarters. We want sanctuary from the stresses of the city and of life.

We want a garden.

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