Before the High Line

We should all know about the  benefits of green streetscapes. We may take it for granted that trees make us feel better as we march on towards our timely destination. Trees just don’t grow in of themselves, at least in cities. Someone needs to plant them. With this nugget of truth, I bring you Rose’s Garden by Peter H. Reynolds. It is “dedicated to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy-celebrating the spirit of community, the beauty of nature and the power of faith and imagination.” While Rose is primarily known as the exceptional matriarch of the Kennedy dynasty, she is the namesake of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. The greenway is part of the Big Dig, the most expensive US highway project that rerouted Interstate 93 running through the heart of the city. Opened October 4, 2008, a series of organically maintained parks and connected public spaces sprouted from the elevated 93. FYI the first section of the High Line opened June 9, 2009. And I digress.

In this story, Rose is an adventurer set sail in a gigantic teapot. She collects seeds from each of her destinations. Arriving at an urban port, she wanders around the city when she spots “a dusty, forgotten stretch of earth.” Here, she decides to plant some seeds literally and figuratively. In trying to establish this garden, her home, she nurtures the land and the seeds. She waits through the seasons but nothing sprouts. Word spreads about Rose’s determination to wait for her flowers. In the interim, children of the city bring her paper flowers to ‘plant’ in her garden. Soon Rose’s garden is populated with paper flowers. Whilst relishing in this beauty, Rose’s notices that slowly real flowers are growing in-between the paper ones. Rose has finally found home and the last double page spread shows members of the community enjoying Rose’s garden.

I enjoyed the story because it is about urban horticulture. Never mind she was bringing seeds from faraway places and perhaps from a biological/ecological standpoint not so good an idea. But I relished the fact that Rose undertook some guerrilla gardening and children, from all walks of life came to celebrate. Ankle biter 1 loved the idea that in this world, people can sail in giant teapots. He liked how she collected things from each place she visited. I’m not sure whether that prompts him to collect things during each of his walks or if that’s just his thing or more appropriately an ankle biter thing. (I’m swayed towards the latter). He certainly likes flowers and exuberantly plucks new buds. Rose’s Garden gave me a talking point to say, “You want the flowers to grow don’t you? Just like Rose’s Garden?” A little pause, staring at the wilted buds in his hand. “Yes. But the kids came when there were no flowers.”

Bless. Oh little ankle biter, beauty and community is not either/or.

(Photo by Vivian Romero from the book Rose’s Garden,Peter H. Reynolds)

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Vivian Romero

I want to activate the urban imagined: stimulating, healthy and sustainable spaces for all (especially the young and young at heart).

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