Tuesday, May 26, 2015
In Jersey, we say "down the shore," as in "I went down the shore on Memorial Day." It is as much of a conjunction as the disparate parts of the state are ever likely to have. My "down the shore" is mostly Asbury Park/Ocean Grove, a juxtaposition that says it all. The Asbury Insider -- and people I met -- talked about how empty Asbury was in the 1990s, and how long it took for life to return to the city. This made me reflect on the ways life and money move in the American city, stranding some, drowning others. The waves of investment are coming back to Asbury now, as they are in Jersey City and Brooklyn -- it might even reach Orange NJ. This seems like it should be good but what distorts it is the amount -- it's an all-or-nothing process that wreaks havoc on either end. Slavery was similar, in an odd way, to this system of real estate investment: it was designed for maximum profit and paid no attention to the needs of the people and the land. But people and land have needs -- among the need for continuity. New Jersey needs the shore, not just as a place for a dip and some ice cream, but as the place in which we get to know ourselves. As the site of our collective soul, if souls are located in landscape. As the place where we see the horizon in the far distance and remember that the world is full of wonder. Waves of water, waves of investment might wash us away -- but perhaps there is some Jersey Strong that we might exert, and find a way to stay?
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I spent the last several days at the 50th annual meeting of the Salzburg Congress on Urban Planning and Development, which was held at the Schloss Leopoldskron, famous as the site of the film, Sound of Music. The Schloss is a 15-minute walk from the Old City of Salzburg, so I took a walk with a friend to see what I could see. The beginning part of the walk went through a meadow. It seemed an unlikely main street, because it was so, well, meadow-like. But there was a road and sidewalks and people were going through non-stop. We walked over a canal, and through more meadow which ended at the foot of a hill topped by a fortress. We walked around the hill and on the other side was the Old City, nestled at the foot of the fortress. We noticed a funicular, and so decided to go to the top -- wonderful and quick way up! At the top were panoramic views of the surrounding valley. It was easy to imagine defending the fortress from hostile forces. A small city was tucked into the walls and alleys up there. But my favorite sight was the meadow criss-crossed with paths, filled with people coming and going, and leading -- not so distant -- to the Schloss.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
Poem of the Week: Ross Gay
A Small Needful Fact
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
Used with permission.
Ross Gay is a gardener and teacher living in Bloomington, Indiana. His book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, is available from University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.
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