marble & milkweed

musings in the garden at the beginning of another hurricane season


This is one of our native plant beds at 6th & B Garden. It grows more lush and intricate each year and attracts a beautiful variety of birds and pollinating insects. We had just begun to transition the area under our giant willow tree over to native shade plantings in the summer and autumn of 2012 when were visited by superstorm Sandy. The willow, top heavy and shallowly rooted, fell over in the high winds. We managed to clear most of the branches in the days following the storm, but we had no way to remove the stump, and so it remains.

A memorial to a beloved tree, and now a habitat for city wildlife, but also a reminder of the way that climate change (in the form of fierce storms and other extreme weather) is already impacting us here in New York City. And, of course, across the globe. The Puerto Rican community of Lower East Side has been deeply impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Maria in PR last autumn. We must continue to demand accountability from our elected officials not only around recovery efforts there, but also around addressing the root causes of our global climate crisis. This list is from December, but it is likely that these grassroots organizations on the ground in Puerto Rico would still appreciate your support, if you are able to donate. 

Our garden is proud to participate in a program called Gardens Rising, which is helping create infrastructure in community gardens on the Lower East Side to absorb stormwater, harvest rainwater and otherwise mitigate the impact of extreme weather conditions. It’s hoped that this program will function as a pilot effort on the way to implementing similar programming citywide.

What struck me the most after the storm, was the way that our community in the garden functioned as a safety net. Gardeners went to check on our elderly members, the garden became the de facto meeting place in the absence of communications technology, resources were shared freely. We looked out for each other. It was a little window into what the world could look like. I don’t want to oversimplify, being in community with each other is hard work. But we all do plenty of things every day that are hard, like care for families amidst the chaos of daily life and struggle to do creative work in late capitalism, etc. We learn how to do hard things, in order to survive.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Rebecca Solnit’s book, “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster”, where she discusses this topic so eloquently: 

“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”

So much going on around us these days does feel like a disaster. And so many people are envisioning something better and working to bring that into being. Observing the evolving landscape in our tiny city plot and having committed to care for it together with my neighbors, I believe that this hard work of transformation is not only possible, but that it may be the very work we are here to do.
 

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