These nasturtiums were my first guerrilla gardening project. I bought a four-pack at the nursery and planted these two seedlings in a bare spot outside my apartment building. I thought for sure that the owner would tear them up the moment he saw them, but instead they were left to grow.
For awhile, things were going okay. But then:
My aphid problem is out of control. They’ve killed almost everything in my windowsill and my outdoor window box, and there’s not a ladybug for miles. It’s so hard to do something good in a climate that’s bent on doing harm – an urban climate that’s inhospitable to ladybugs and butterflies but allows aphids and roaches to flourish, a passive consumer climate that offers zero support for people trying to produce their own food. The local community garden organization isn’t returning my phone calls, despite its supposed need for volunteers, and whenever I respond to people’s messages on the guerrilla gardening forum, it seems they either lose interest or cease to exist.
When I complain about the lack of organizations and like-minded people around me, the response is always, “Start something!” How many of you have had this dismissal cheerfully thrown in your face? Want something to happen? Just start it! Just snap your fingers and the volunteers will arrive, the space will be found, the raised beds built, the topsoil and compost and mulch installed, and the seeds tended to. Just snap your fingers and all the other jobs and projects you’re busy with will fall away! Just start something! Just do it! We’re not going to help, of course – but good luck with it, you crazy activist you!
I suppose people believe they’re being encouraging when they tell someone to “start something.” But “I’ll help you start something” would be far more encouraging.
Because newsflash: healing cannot happen without support. I’m not going to berate the people around me for not being gardeners, but it’s profoundly lonely to be the only one around with a particular interest. Where are all the other gardeners? Is it really so bizarre to feel this excitement at watching things grow, this fear when I bite into an apple grown a thousand miles away? My garden wouldn’t be dying if there were people who could help me with it. If it was other people’s garden, too. It wouldn’t be so impossible to find a community garden plot if community gardens were supported by cities. It wouldn’t be so hard to keep my plants alive if my neighborhood had been built with the health of plants in mind.
Healing cannot happen without support. My doctor ordered an MRI for my back, but I can’t afford an MRI. Now what? I don’t know. Again, I find myself working around a system designed to encourage harm and discourage healing. I want beautiful, healthy things to happen:
But they can’t happen without larger systems to nurture them.
(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)