Hello! And welcome to the rather overdue grand opening of Spokes and Petals, a blog created with the intent of sharing thoughts about living in the city with color and grace and wide open eyes. Living in a city full of names and salutations.
I am obsessed with biophilia. I love the living, breathing, growing plants in abandoned lots. The struggling trees that line wide avenues, the mullein spiking its yellow flowers rebelliously and softly in a church yard. I’m also completely head over heels forever in love with bikes with all their steely poetic forms, the sound of a coast, the awareness necessitated by being behind a handlebar.
Spokes and petals are two of the most integral things to keeping my life seamed and stable in the city where I live. The concrete expanses and radiating highways that ring Boston and cut through it in the bizarre bovine paths that this place is known for are intimidating at best and ugly at worst. But to have the wherewithal of trued wheels to travel them by and the primal curiosity of an eye that is trained to fixate upon stems and leaves – the late afternoon hues of chicory, outstretched queen anne’s laces, trees graceful with washer women’s limbs – means to see the city as an entity of entities, rather than a collage of rock dust and sand.
I grew up in the little rust buckle metropolis of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I didn’t know the names for many things, nor did I have the language to talk about them. I loved “the natural world” but had some difficulty understanding it in an urban context. I saw beauty in the oriental poppies and raspberries of my Grandparents’ back yard and found fascination with the sounds of my father’s vegetable garden late at night, as I listened to nightcrawlers making their way through leaves and dew-damp soil and tomato vines. I loved the flowers, I dug up the worms. Milwaukee’s natural world was a series of individual places and snapshots. There were trees on my street; their seeds fell in helicopters that my dad picked up and threw. There was green filling in the sidewalk; I didn’t know what to think about it, but I respected it.
In my adulthood I like to think that I understand my environment more wholly. I mull over ecosystems and their strangers and cohorts. I use worms to compost my kitchen scraps and know many of the latin names for the flowers my grandmother grew. One of the sidewalk weeds that I spent my childhood thinking was clover has been revealed as wood sorrel, Oxalis spp, a delightful lemon-flavored delicacy found in woods and residential neighborhoods alike (and a delicious treat for the weary weeder). Delving into one’s environment is a perpetual adventure, one that requires all of the curiosity and humility one can muster to avoid becoming overwhelmed or cocky. I try to see things through the eyes of my five-year old self while striving to remember the nomenclature, jargon and tips that I’ve slowly accrued throughout several years of time spent on farms, gardens, woods, wildernesses, and now the urban wilds of Boston’s Arnold Arboretum.
In keeping this blog I hope to celebrate the biodiversity and vivacity of the city, though I also intend for these pages to help me ease my writing back into somewhat of a public eye and to grease my chain by pedaling out some metaphors, recipes, stories and questions. Feedback is always welcome, and if you have questions of your own about your environment – urban or not – please feel free to share them. While I am far from an expert I enjoy piecing together parts of puzzles and have a deep fondness for sleuthing.
Anyhow, I suppose that this is enough of a welcome and hello for one night. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again soon!