January 25, 2005

Trees do grow in Brooklyn

Over at kinesthesis breakthrough dr. m asked me about my interest in urban nature. He's got a couple of posts that fit into that category: he describes going out to walk his dogs in the city and seeing Orion through oak branches on a moonlit night. More recently on a bike ride through the city, he watched men digging through the earth to uncover antique bottles, remnants of human civilization hidden under dirt.

Last week I asked my students to describe urban nature. Here are the images they came up with:

The nest of sparrows I can see from my apartment window. The ivy that clings to brick. Dandelions pushing their way up through cracks in asphalt. Bats soaring from the eaves at dusk. A squirrel on a power line. Trees blossoming along city streets, filling traffic air with sweetness. The plant on my mother's window sill. Rats in the basements and sewers. The funky smelling guy in the seat next to you on the bus. A hawk soaring on an updraft. A glass of water to drink. Central Park. Cut flowers from the corner store. Breeze on your face on a hot summer street. Moss growing on lamp posts. Birds in the chimney. Bats in your belfry. December streets lined with snow-frosted tree trunks. Garbage bins raided by skunks or raccoons. Cockroaches scuttling across linoleum. Spiderman leaping from building to building to save the city he loves. Sunrise beyond the skyline of skyscrapers. The duck pond. The tree that Francie Nolan sat under. Ant mounds in the grassy median. Maybe even alligators in the sewers.


Anonymous said...

Cool images. I like how humans are part of the scene.

What Now? said...

Wonderful images--your students are quite observant and thoughtful, aren't they?

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

There are a lot of very interesting things about these descriptive images. How wonderful! First, almost everything is in motion--movement seems essential to both what is described and to the very description. Even the plants seem to be in motion, creeping along or popping up unexpectedly. These images suggest that nature in the city is more an event than a thing. Second, almost everything is super-localized; that is, most of these images are mundane, very specific, and relatively small. Nothing is a landscape, a vista, or something encompassing.

foldyard said...

Hello. I'm a complementary therapist in England. I was trawling the internet for inspiration for a small article I'm writing for a local magazine ('Beat the February Blues'). I came across your evocative writing on 'February'.
Then I noticed your menu item "Trees do grow in Brooklyn". My Mother had the book and I read it when younger and enjoyed it. The bit about giving Francie coffee, even though she didn't drink it, because she enjoyed the way the heat and curling her hands round the cup made her feel - came to mind. As well as the description of her crossing the sreets 'kitty-corner' to get to work, and it meaning she arrived at work early and no-one was there yet. I could see the people and places so vivdly as I read. Thank you - the memory was a pleasure