Waxing Poetic on This Whole New Neighborhood Pride Thing

I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy today about the place I live. In the last two months, I think I have met more neighbors than I have in the entire four years I’ve lived here. And you know what? I’ve got some really cool neighbors!

Backyard panorama.

Deciding to go forward with the community garden was a bit of a leap of faith and definitely an exercise in putting myself out there in a way I never really have before. But honestly? The worst thing that could happen – it not working out for some reason – would still be an improvement over where I was in January, simply because I’ve gotten to meet and get to know so many people I probably never would have otherwise. Not only that, but I feel like my neighborhood is a friendlier place, just because of my own shift in perspective. We hang out in our front yard. We laugh with people on the street and say hello to everyone who walks past. We actually recognize people when we’re out and about, people from the neighborhood. And I’m constantly amazed at the projects and ideas that so many other groups and businesses and people are doing.

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I’m proud of where I live, and I want it to thrive because its people are thriving. I’m proud of it even though people’s houses get broken into when they are at home, even though a motorcycle gang is trying to move in, even though a young man was shot and killed in the middle of the day 12 blocks south of us yesterday. The more we all care about this shared place and each other, the more we can push these bad things away.

Willem stamp of approval: fingers crossed we can make this community garden a go at Arsenal Park.

Doing Good and Being Awesome: Turning Over a New Leaf

As the snow slowly melts away in our corner of the world, tiny seedlings grow strong in our basement, and the promise of many, many new faces leaps up in my near future, I’m reminded of how dynamic life really is. All winter, we hole up, cozy and warm in our house-cocoons in a sort of stasis, with vague recollections of buds on trees and crocuses popping up through thawed dirt.

20150301. It's beginning to look a lot like... March 1?

As Kurt Cobain would say, though, spring is here again, friends, and this spring in particular promises to be the beginning of something amazing, something much bigger than me (or any one person, for that matter), something dynamic and shifting and growing and changing.

Drum roll, please: Thanks to the nudging of a new friend and neighbor, Sara Croft, and the powers of Facebook, this spring we will be organizing our neighbors to create a community garden in the Keystone-Monon neighborhood of Indianapolis. Just writing those words makes me feel giddy, excited, and a little terrified, but mostly all warm and fuzzy.

Whee. I want to read this whole book, right meow! And get these flyers posted! Also, Willem totally said "kisses" just now, which i think makes it his first legit word (beyond mama, dada, and neigh, of course).

Sara is an energetic, get-it-done kind of woman, and with just one simple Facebook post describing her vision of this project, she had me, hook, line, and sinker. See, what we’ve already discovered is that there is tremendous power in numbers. What feels like an incredibly daunting undertaking for just one person – finding and securing land, building the community involvement needed for success, seeking out water and supplies, building beds, managing volunteers, and countless other things we haven’t even begun to imagine – seems not only manageable, but fun and fulfilling with many hands, many faces, many ideas driving us forward.

Why a community garden? As followers of this blog know, we have a very healthy backyard (and, increasingly, front yard) garden, as well as chickens, bees, and compost. What I’ve longed for, though, is the shared wisdom, commiseration, fun, and all-out neighborliness that comes from sharing such a garden space. The summer of the drought and triple degree temperatures a few years ago, when our garden became a study in suspended animation, all our plants simply shutting down? How nice would it have been to have a group of friendly faces to commiserate with, to work side by side in the sweltering heat to keep those plants hanging on?

20120727. RAIN CLOUDS.

That year the rainclouds formed, but no rain came.

I want to be a part of creating something bigger than me, something that not only feeds our bellies but also nourishes our minds, our need for social connection and community, our ability to care for ourselves and the motivation and drive to look out for one another. There is nothing more basic, more human than cultivating our own food.

20130504. Garden hands.

20150301. Inside, everything's green.

I’m also so looking forward to the “community” part of community garden. When I was a kid, we buzzed all around the neighborhood, a pack of wild dogs on Big Wheels and bicycles, until the streetlights came on and it was time to go home. I want my son to have that sense of togetherness, of community, of learning and growing and struggling and succeeding together. Though this process is only just beginning, I’m already reminded of how there are still so many amazing people I have yet to meet in this world.

In other “new leaf” news, my amazing husband starts what will hopefully be an amazing new job on Monday…

20121103. Birdie, three months old.

And my little family recently started our second year around the sun together with Willem’s first birthday. Happy birthday, you wonderful little babe! Like I said, life? Dynamic.

Willem's really into raising his food in exaltation before eating it these days. Praise you, pancake!

Willem turns one!

Our Version of “Keeping Up With the Joneses”

Yesterday, we woke to the dulcet tones of saws and hammers emanating from the neighbor’s backyard. It turns out they are rebuilding their chicken coop.

Chris’ response? “If their new coop is cooler than ours, I’m going to need to rebuild ours.” He’s only partly joking; he’s been dreaming of building something along these lines since more or less the day after we got our coop.

I love that our version of “keeping up with the Joneses” has nothing to do with having an in-ground pool or super lush green grass or a new SUV. I also love that our next door neighbors have chickens, too. Sometimes I swear our groups of chickens are talking to each other through the fence.

Here’s our coop:
20121221. I have a remarkably steady hand. The chickens' first snow.

Also, OMG, LOOK AT BABY BEAKER!
20120413. Giant Beaker.