The smell of dog piss melded with damp earth under my finger nails reminds me of fried onions. Suede shoes soaked and sopping through stupid crab grass. No sunbathing in this stuff, it’ll rash you up. Just a green square next to the highway. An urban hamster wheel, circumnavigated by joggers and speed walkers. No summer lovers share wine or baguettes on the sharp grass.The chick chick chick of the sprinklers, the click click click of my wet lighter. A break in rains that should’ve come in May, (Global Warning) oatmeal night clouds break and a mission arises. Necessary enough that it paused the movie stream, kick started the bike, bought the veg, packed the spade, beers in a bag of ice, fresh deck of darts. Bedtime can wait.
It called on me for years, this job. For all my planting of food scraps. Just for me. I should plant them all in dirt–in the public. Areas of green, but decorative at best. Nice untouchable things, providing nothing but a green zone for the eyes. A ‘green’ space. Gutted with underground pipes, crisscrossing unimaginatively through layers of earth, slathered over with pancake batter concrete. Green city lawns in Taiwan. Areas re-decided to be green once again.
It’s different here. The cities were not built around monster majestic trees. Parks were not so obviously a thing to protect and build around, daintily. Instead, all was bowled over in some cities–parking lots make sharp cheddar, but lawns speckled with random trees pop up here and there. Must be some science involved. A basic minimum of green to grey ratio to uphold a minimal human requirement.
I bought a little ginger, some chili peppers, some green onion, and went to the park. It was late. Nobody was there. It was raining just enough to make any outdoor place here peaceful and people-less. My task was to plant food in the park. Maybe it will survive. Maybe it will be discovered by someone who instantly understands its simple purpose, and then be nurtured by strangers. Perhaps a neighbor will pluck a chili pepper, instead of buying a plasticized container from the supermarket. Or maybe not.
Either way, I want to try and make food grow in as many public places as I can. I want to Johnny Appleseed my way around the town, burying scraps of seed that will be reborn on the medians, in the useless city planters that skirt the streets, and under bleak grey overpasses. Surely something will survive. And surely some small piece of ginger will be taken and used.
In some parts of the world, it’s illegal to plant food in public. Permits must be acquired, and zones exist where you can and can not do something. Orchids must be taken care of–beautiful, poisonous and useless. No citrus or avocado trees grow in the city parks. Parks are for temporary loitering. People must leave when their picnic is over. Nothing shall be plucked from the trees. No sprig of mint will be picked from the ground. The homeless must go on panhandling at the curb to eat cheap junk food.
So I’m going to do this often. I’m going to carry seeds and roots with me whenever I’m on late night walkabouts. And I will go back and check periodically. Probably most things won’t take, but something will. And I hope that whoever finds that sturdy bush of peppers at roadside looks fondly on them, and does their part to keep it alive.
Seed your cities and towns. Beauty and bounty. A new kind of street food. And have a great weekend.