Monthly Archives: June 2011

Day 6: Room With A View or Two

Crystal City Artwork

Dear Reader:

It was a beautiful, sunny, dry, breezy day in the D.C. area. We were getting a little burned-out on museums, so I spent a good part of the morning enjoying the view from my balcony and researching bicycle safety tips for riding in the city traffic, looking at the numerous bike trails around the area, and seeing if I could ride those trails to the medical office for my allergy shots.

The best bike safety information came from an article on BicycleSafe.com entitled “How to Not Get Hit by Cars” by Michael Bluejay. The key is to ride a little bit more to the left than usual. On a bike, you worry that someone is going to hit you from behind, but that rarely happens. Drivers behind you can see you. The danger comes from cars entering the road from side streets or drivers parked on the side of the road opening their doors into your path.

Artwork Down Under

Riding in the city may be a little bit more dangerous than I’d like, but there are pay-offs, too. You can see so much more from a bicycle than you can from a car. Take this artwork, for example. We were taking a slightly different route from the Crystal City neighborhood to Pentagon City when we saw these gorgeous murals hung beneath an overpass. If I had been in a car, I could not have stopped, admired, and photographed this cool sight.

photo copied from Bike Arlington website

Arlington, along with other bike-progressive cities, has begun to mark lanes with “shared-lane markings” or “sharrows.” These markings show cyclists where they should be riding in the lane and also alert motorists that bicyclists can share lanes with the autos. These also encourage cyclists to stay on the streets and off the sidewalks . . . also riding on sidewalks is allowed.

I didn’t want to spend my whole day online, so after a few productive hours of research, I wrote up yesterday’s blog post and hit the gym. There were teenagers hanging out by the pool yesterday, a fact that may cheer up the Teen, who is missing her friends. I’m missing my friends and family, too, homesickness being one of the few negative aspects of travel.

Looking toward D.C.

We cheered ourselves up with a nice dinner and some drinks out on the balcony where a pink and deep purple sunset provided a backdrop to the massive National Cathedral in the far distance. As darkness fell, a shower of lights popped over the cathedral. I blinked, wondering if I’d imagined it. A few seconds later, another puffball of sparkly light exploded above the building.

Sometimes the simplest things give the greatest pleasure. We watched the fireworks, chatted about our visit in D.C. so far, and called it a day. I had the best night’s sleep in over a week. Maybe slowing down, whether in a small town or a fast-paced city, is the best way to experience the world around us.

Day 5: History . . . Naturally

View from 2nd floor rotunda

Dear Reader:

Another hot and sunny day in D.C. After a morning workout, the Teen and I ventured over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see the lions and tigers and bears and . . . the Hope Diamond.

What every girl "hopes" for

The Hope Diamond has a fascinating–if mythologized–history. It is said to bring bad luck to its possessors, possibly because it was stolen from an idol of the Indian goddess, Sita. According to at least one website, Sita is a goddess of tolerance, so I have a hard time believing she would curse anyone who possessed her pretty blue stone, but there you have it.

Before making our way to the second floor where we found the blue gem, we went on safari in the Hall of Mammals, where we saw some animals that were quite familiar . . .

Moose

. . . and some that were not. This tiny antelope is just a little bit larger than a rabbit.

Kirk's Dikdik

Many photographs later, we took a trip back in evolutionary time in the Hall of Human Origins. Here we viewed some cave paintings, a prehistoric flute, and skulls and replicas of Neanderthals and other human ancestors. We learned that all modern humans share 99.9% common DNA. In fact, the concept of “different races” is an idea that is facing extinction. The museum is offering an exhibit and programming called Race: Are We So Different? I encourage you to click HERE and see what science tells us about our concepts of race.

Replica of cave painting

For me, throwing away our old schema of “different races” and embracing a schema of “one human race” is a powerful step in the right direction. Maybe once we get that roadblock out of the way, we can begin in earnest the hard work of maintaining our environment, reducing population, developing renewable energy systems that work as well or better than the old petroleum economy.

The “Humans Change the World” area of the “What Does It Mean to be Human” exhibit was a powerful reminder of how we humans affect our environment. Between 1959 and 1999, the human population doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion people. If we keep up at this pace, we will be at 9 billion by 2042. Can you imagine the consequences of that on our planet? On our food and water resources? On health care resources?

Prehistoric flute

Talk about “paying the piper!”

Leaving prehistoric humans behind, the Teen and I headed upstairs to see the diamond, the “bone” exhibit, and a beautiful gallery of nature photography–the Nature’s Best Photography Awards 2010. These were fabulous photos. My favorite was Land Crab by Cristina Mittermeier from right here in Washington, D.C. If you go to the link underlined above, you can view the photos. Better yet, send in some of your own great nature photography and enter this year’s contest.

"Four-sided Pyramid" by Sol Lewitt

I had to stop by the outdoor sculpture garden beside the museum. This one is directly across from the Hirshhorn’s. There are free outdoor jazz concerts in this garden on Friday nights. Hope to catch one or two before the end of the summer.

Farmer's Market Booty

Since the Crystal City Farmer’s Market didn’t open until three p.m. I waited for Hubby to get so we could bike together over to 18th street to see what was being offered. Jackpot! Farmers were selling everything from goat cheese to eggs to heirloom tomatoes to cherries to basil to bison. We settled for some veggies and a loaf of honey-wheat bread and some super-sweet Queen Ann cherries from a nice guy from Pennsylvania. When I told him we were from Maine, he said, “You guys are probably just getting into strawberries up there.” “Ayuh,” I said, and I felt a momentary pang of sadness to be missing out on strawberries from Dole’s Farm.

Somehow, though, ripe tomatoes in June helped ease the pain.

Not sure what’s happening on Day 6 other than trying to find my allergist’s office by Metro and bus. Maybe a trip to the local library? A dip in the pool? Doing some sketching/writing in the park? Tune in tomorrow to find out what we did . . . Outside the Box in D.C.

Days 3 & 4: Biking, BBQ, and Some Pretty Cool Sculpture

Hirshhorn Museum Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Reminder: Click on underlined words to access links for more information, articles, photos, videos, and more.

Dear Reader:

Sunday morning, hubby and I hit the bike trail. I had my first experience with city biking, traveling partly on sidewalks (I’m thinking this is not good form, though people do it) and partly on the city streets where there are marked bike lanes in the middle of the road. D.C. is a very bike-friendly city with its many trails, marked bike routes, and a Capital Bikeshare program.

All around the city you’ll see bright red bicycles lined up in a cheery, earth-friendly row, waiting for members (you can get one day, five-day, one month, or one-year memberships for prices ranging from $5 to $75) to hop on and ride to another station where the bike can be dropped off. The beauty of this is that the rider doesn’t have to cart the machine all around the city. Just take it, use it, drop it off at a station closest to your destination. The first thirty minutes of each ride are free, the second thirty minutes are a buck-fifty, and so on.

If you want to use a bike for a longer ride, it makes more sense to rent one for the day from one of the many rental companies. You might even want to take a bike tour to see some of the historic sites. For example, Bike and Roll offers seven different bike tours as well as an option to create a custom experience.

Park in Crystal City near the bike path

Since hubby stashed our bikes in the back of the F-150, all we had to do on Sunday morning was free my cycle from the truck bed and take off. Passing by the Crystal City Water Park, we hung a left to access the 18-mile Mt. Vernon Trail. This paved, two-lane trail is a favorite with locals and tourists, especially on Sunday morning. Bikers and joggers were out in full force enjoying the breezy, warm day.

Gravelly Point

A few minutes into our ride, we found Gravelly Point. This is a good picnic spot, especially for families with young children, as the planes leaving Reagan International Airport take off directly overhead. The area is park-like with its wide swaths of grass and the trees and shrubbery lining the river where you can watch the boats and kayaks out in the water.

Trestle on Mt. Vernon Trail

We watched a couple of planes take off and then launched ourselves down the path along the Potomac. Soon the path was shaded with trees. Every so often you’d hear “Left!” or the cheerful “ding-ding” of a bicycle bell indicating that someone was about to pass you. This happened alot, since the traffic was quite heavy. Hubby and I passed many a jogger, and I am now longing for a bell of my own.

I was captivated by the squares of light falling through the rusty trestle bridge we passed under and made a note to stop and take a picture on the way back. Hubby was too far ahead of me, so I had to pedal like crazy to catch up. We crossed the Potomac and ended up at the Jefferson Memorial where we parked the bikes for a few minutes and explored the site.

Jefferson Memorial

We wanted to hit the National Capital BBQ Battle, so we headed back to the apartment to grab the Teen who was, amazingly, showered and dressed and blown-dry and made-up and ready to go. Trekking across the Mall, we saw the Hirshhorn Museum, the Smithsonian’s museum of contemporary art and sculpture. The sculpture garden called to us with its pool and plantings and intriguing installations.

I should have taken notes on the names of the pieces and their creators. Unfortunately, I am becoming as technology-dependent as the rest of the world and assumed I could easily find a list of pics and info online at home. Um, wrong. Note to self: Buy notebook today and carry it everywhere!

Thought this sculpture of a coat was cool. The Hirshhorn has art programs for teens, I discovered while searching online for the information I was too lazy to write down. Check out this short video created by some of the kids in the program. You’ll see the coat sculpture in a whole different way.

I wonder if I can get the Teen to sign up for a workshop in the Artlab?

Willem de Kooning "Seated Woman on a Bench"

Having a little bit of fun with sculpture.

Much as I would have liked to continue to explore the garden (I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite spots in D.C.), we were lured by the call of ribs and other culinary delights. Off we went in search of the BBQ Battle. A block or so over from the Mall, on 12th St. near the Old Post Office, we found an entrance to the BBQ.

Clock tower of Old Post Office

The BBQ has raised over 1.2 million dollars in the past for the Boys & Girls Clubs of D.C. We handed over our $12 apiece and took a look around. The BBQ was like our Maine community festivals–Strawberry or Apple or Lobster Fest–with vendors set up in booths, entertainment on various stages, food and drink for sale, and samples to try. Unlike our rural Maine festivals, this one was crowded with people of all races, nationalities, styles of dress, languages. Fascinating to watch the astounding variety of people!

People at the BBQ

It’s quite a jump from Willem de Kooning to Lego, but the day’s theme seemed to be sculpture, high-brow to low-brow. The kids were getting a kick out of sticking their heads in the shark’s jaws.

Lego sculpture

Everyone seemed to be lined up at the Safeway Sampling Tent, so we queued up for what ended up being the longest line EVER! Okay, not ever, but it took us a good two hours to finally get up to the sampling area. I tried to remember the kids in Haiti from the IMAX movie the day before, the kids who were lined up with buckets waiting for clean water to drink. Instead of griping, I decided to watch people instead.

We filled ourselves on samples of watermelon and mango, lamb ribs and chili dogs and bbq turkey, potato and ceasar salads, and countless tiny cups of lemonade, tea, and soft drinks. My favorite was a Sobe Goji Pear Yerba Mate drink. Yerba Mate is a South American beverage that is supposed to help with weight-loss, energy, and focus. I don’t know if the Sobe drink can do all that for you, but it sure did taste yummy!

Oscar Meyer Weinermobile

There’s just something fun about the Weinermobile which has been around (in various incarnations, of course) for about as long as automobiles. Click HERE to view a YouTube video about the history of the Weinermobile.

Love Seed Mama Jump

Finally we wandered down to the far end of the BBQ and the blues stage and caught the first set of a great Delaware band, Love Seed Mama Jump. These guys could rock! Click HERE to sample their version of John Denver’s “Country Road.” The bongo drums were unique, and I think I caught a bit of Celtic flare in the music, though the Teen thinks I’m crazy.

All in all, I’m glad we went to the festival. It’s the sort of thing that the locals do, I think, and we saw a great variety of people just hangin’ out and enjoying themselves on a nice summer Sunday afternoon. The money raised will help some kids get into after school programs and summer camps, and I may have discovered a new band to follow. Next time, though, we would skip the sampling tent and head over to “Retaurant Row” to buy some finger-lickin’ spicy ribs or one of the gigantic turkey legs we saw some people gnawing upon.

After three days of sightseeing and walking and Metro-ing, we went home for some much-needed hydration and sleep. Hubby went to work Monday morning, and the Teen and I decided that Mondays should be housekeeping day since we pretty much needed some quiet and home time. I hit the gym in the morning.

Later, I walked over to the Harris Teeter for some provisions. I haven’t driven a car since Wednesday, and I love living in a walkable community. With a mall right across the street and the Pentagon Row shops just around the corner, I could live comfortably without leaving my city block, even if I didn’t have a bicycle.

This is a planned development, quite new and one of several of Arlington, Virginia’s urban villages. According to Wikipedia, a Metro stop spurred development of this area which was once an open field and some industrial buildings. With its green spaces, park, tree-lined sidewalks, center square, and public transportation, this development provides healthy, happy urban living.

If you can afford it.

The apartment we are staying in costs about $3000 a month. Average rental costs for a two-bedroom in the D.C. area (according to ApartmentRatings.com) is about $1500 a month for 2011. I keep wondering, where do all the retail and restaurant workers live?

Today I’m heading over to Crystal City, the urban village next door, in order to check out the farmer’s market. Check in tomorrow for pics and commentary!

Day 2: Flying Through the Air & Space Museum

Mural of WWII Figher Plane

Dear Reader:

Day Two of OUTSIDE THE BOX IN D.C.

Because it was Saturday, we slept in late, had a couple cups of coffee, sat on our balcony overlooking Nordstroms at the mall, and looked through tourist guides to figure out what we wanted to do with our day. We thought we might go over to the National Mall for a taste of BBQ at the Safeway National Capitol Barbecue Battle XIX. This is a benefit festival/contest to raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and has raised over 1.2 million dollars for the organization! However, we got such a late start, we decided to save the ribs for Sunday and flew over to the Air & Space Museum instead.

Here’s the funny thing: I’ve been to D.C. four times including this trip. I’ve been to the Air & Space Museum three times now . . . and I don’t even really care about airplanes! Craig wanted to see a couple of IMAX movies showing there, and it is close to our “favorite” L’Enfant Square Metro stop. We did enjoy reading about the Red Baron, WWI and the beginning of airplane warfare, looking at the WWII pilot uniforms and the colorful names and decorations painted on the planes, and learning about Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the Pioneers of Flight gallery.

1783 Balloon at 1/4 Scale

I thought this was pretty. It is a quarter-scale model of the first balloon flight in 1783.

The most compelling moments of the day for me were watching the two IMAX 3-D shows–RESCUE 3D and HUBBLE 3D. The RESCUE 3D movie featured rescue workers who all ended up helping in the Haiti disaster. Seeing the shots of the Haiti and the devastation and the people trying to survive in the aftermath of the earthquake was sobering. Seeing it, you can’t quite imagine how anyone could have survived or how they can rebuild.

HUBBLE 3D took us off planet Earth and into space. Our planet is incredibly beautiful viewed from space. The juxtaposition between the incredible amounts of energy expended on our space program (watching lift-off, you can’t help but be awed by the blast of fire propelling that shuttle out of the atmosphere) and the miracle of a blue planet covered in water and green and brown land and wisps of clouds. I was hit by the irony that in order to “see” our planet and appreciate how precious and vulnerable it is, we had to develop technology to this level, putting massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that may or may not be raising the temperature of the planet and putting natural systems in jeopardy.

http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C51 Earth Policy Institute “2010 Hits Top of Temperature Chart”
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/features/200711_temptracker/ NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies “Earth’s Temperature Tracker” by David Herring

Can we continue to afford to burn that much fuel in order to explore space?

We are looking for an alternate planet out there that could support human life. The Hubble telescope has taken pictures of millions of solar systems, some with their own planets. That’s hundreds of millions of planets (or billions?) Nebulae are out there “birthing” new stars all the time, nascent solar systems that one day may cool and form even more planets. It’s more than my mind can comprehend.

The law of averages would suggest there would be at least one other planet out there that could support human life, but I do have to wonder: Instead of looking for a new Earth, shouldn’t we try to maintain the one we already have?

Tomorrow: I’ll hopefully be posting about today’s BBQ consumption and a bike ride along the Potomac.

A Capitol Night

Capitol Building

Dear Reader:

After a day acclimating ourselves to our neighborhood in Arlington, VA just across the Potomac from D.C., we hopped on the Metro yellow line and zipped over to L’Enfant Plaza, just a block over from the National Mall. Walking up Maryland Avenue toward the beautiful white dome of the U.S. Capitol, I spotted something familiar. Raised garden beds!

Raised beds in children's garden

Here was a children’s garden, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, General Services Administration, and the FAA Child Development Center, right in the heart of one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world! After attending a conference about child development and learning how gardens benefit children, one of the GSA members organized the creation of this experiential garden for kids. The other groups came on board, and the garden was created in 2010–a positive example of how government entities CAN work together for the common good. Click HERE to read about the project.

Sign at the children's garden

A few steps further, still buzzing from my exciting find, I saw more garden boxes filled with flowers, veggies, and herbs. The uniquely-shaped beds were alive with birds and insects in the warm, late-afternoon air.

Garden in the Heart of D.C.

Out came my camera again . . .

Community garden, perhaps?

Check out this basil . . .

Basils

. . . summer squash?

Some sort of squash plant

I almost dropped my camera when I saw this . . . a compost bin steps from the National Mall.

Compost bin!

Okay, if we can have a real veggie garden complete with compost bins right in the middle of Washington D.C., can’t we plant community gardens in every neighborhood, housing development, condo association, and hamlet in the U.S.A.? They don’t take alot of room, they beautify the neighborhood, they are wonderful tools for children’s education and development, and the produce is nutritional and tasty.

My family, though used to my rantings about community gardening and all things composty, were anxious to view the more usual tourist sights, so on we went to the Capitol Building.

Inspiring architecture

How did they build these things without large cranes and hydrolics and electric nail guns?

Here was my thought as I stood at the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, awed by the architecture and sense of history that is seeped into the place: If every American had a chance to come to D.C., to feel the power and beauty and logic of what our founders were able to accomplish and build, we would all be inspired to be better citizens and do our best to make our country and world a better place.

(Yes, I was teary-eyed. Couldn’t help it. Imagine I’ll be a puddle of mush by the time I leave this place at the end of the summer.)

The White House

From the Capitol, we headed down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Canadian Embassy, the Newseum, the National Archives and then up into Penn Quarter with all its restaurants and hotels and twenty-somethings out for a night on the town. We walked past the Shakespeare Theatre, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Craft Museum, and then across the 15th St. and up around Lafayette Park to view the White House and have our picture taken.

Shaky night picture of Washington Monument

By then, dusk had turned to dark and the fireflies were out in the grassy area in front of the White House. We headed down toward the Mall where the Washington Monument was all lit up–huge, and pointy in the evening sky. Senses overloaded and feet beginning to hurt, we trekked back to L’Enfant and the Metro. Twenty minutes later, we were in Arlington safe and sound.

All in all, we had a capital Capitol night. Can’t wait to explore some more!

We Cambridged, We Saw, and We Concord

For several years now I have wanted to visit Cambridge, Massachusetts. Why Cambridge, you ask? Sometime just before junior high school, I had gone through my parents’ collection of books stored on shelves in the basement and came across a paperback edition of Erich Segal’s book, LOVE STORY. I read it, understanding not much except that she was a young girl who dies. What kind of writer, I wondered, kills off the heroine like that? Stupid book, I thought. I’d go back to my ANN OF GREEN GABLES, thank you very much.

(In eighth grade my teacher gave me a copy of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, and I realized that heroes die in some books so I’d better get used to it. Two years later I read GONE WITH THE WIND and discovered that even epic love stories can have tragic endings. Don’t even get me started on ANNA KARENINA.)

Sunny courtyard seen through an archway

Anyway, LOVE STORY was my first literary journey to Harvard and Radcliffe, The Coop, Widener Library, and rowing on the Charles River. After that, I had a fascination with Harvard. For me it has been this sort of ideal–as if all that history and learning and writing and lecturing and studying has bonded into the brick and stone structures, permeated the leaves of the trees in Harvard Yard, seeped into the water of the river down which preppy boys skim in long, thin boats. If only I could get there, I fantasized, perhaps some of that intellectual wondrousness (think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Adams, Al Gore, Matt Damon . . .) would rub off on me.

Plus it just sounded like a really cool, historical, happening place to visit.

So, last weekend when my friend, Donna, invited me to attend her reunion at Lesley University, a small liberal arts college right next door to Harvard, I jumped at the opportunity.

This is Lesley University’s Admissions building.

The entire campus is housed in these beautiful, renovated, Victorian-era houses snuggled up together on tree-shaded streets just off Massachusetts Avenue. If you Google Map it, look for Wendell Street.

Here I am on the steps of the dormitory hall where we stayed. The three-story house was tall and narrow with five or six rooms on each floor. A wooden staircase wound up from the front entrance hall to the two upper stories. Pretty posh living quarters for undergraduates, I thought.

The Coop Bookstore and Cafe

Refreshed and revived, we didn’t stay in our room for long–just about enough time to throw our bags on the bed and eat a brownie from the fabulous table of food downstairs in the common room. Donna gave me a tour of Lesley and then showed me where she used to cut through Harvard to get to stores and whatnot.

Street performer on a unicycle playing the bagpipes in a kilt

Sure enough, we came out near Harvard Square where you can catch the T, watch street performers, browse for books in The Coop, have coffee at one of the many, many coffee shops, and window-shop for shoes that cost more than I spend on groceries for a month.

Cambridge River Festival

Donna and I were lucky to be here the same weekend as the Cambridge River Festival, a celebration of the arts set up along the Charles. About 2 pm, we slipped into a tent to enjoy a presentation of storytelling by some very talented local teenagers, viewed some performance art (guy dressed up like a giant, slightly creepy, white angel) and then went back to Harvard Square in search of coffee at The Coop.

Once we’d had our fill of mocha lattes and book browsing, we walked around the city for a few more hours enjoying the pretty, landscaped dooryards, quaint neighborhoods, campus buildings, and shop windows. Cambridge really is a walkable city, the kind of place New Urbanists claim we most enjoy living in.

Roses gracing the sidewalk

What are the priciples of New Urbanism?
1. Walkability
2. Connectivity
3. Mixed use and diversity
4. Mixed housing
5. Quality architecture and Urban Design
6. Traditional neighborhood structure
7. Increased density
8. Green transportation
9. Sustainability
10.Quality of life

Of course, Cambridge is an OLD urban model. It is the kind of place the New Urbanists look to for inspiration. Cambridge has the elelments we’ve been missing in all our unsustainable suburbs and exurban housing developments.

Here, you can shop, eat, learn, sleep, exercise, work and play all in the same place without having to get into a car. You can walk or bike or ride the T or catch a bus. The architecture is stunning. The quality of life is fantastic–all those institutions of learning, the emphasis on culture and the arts, the plethora of caffeinated beverages. I felt energized just being there for one weekend. Imagine living somewhere even a little bit like that.

Sign at the Farmer's Market

On Sunday morning, Donna and I even discovered a farmer’s market in Charles Square. We bought bread, sampled cheesecake, perused the greens, and admired the booths. I watched people buying bags of veggies, tubs of goat cheese and long sticks of baguettes and envied them their local lunch.

Donna at the Farmer's Market

We ate a small lunch at an outside table in front of a coffee shop and headed back to Harvard for more sightseeing. I was determined to see Widener Library before we left Cambridge, and Donna wanted to find a church she had attended a few times when she was at Lesley.

Ironically, you CAN park your car at Harvard Yard . . . or pretty close to it, anyway. When we had arrived at Lesley the day before, we were given a pass to park at Harvard’s underground Oxford Street parking lot. Now we stopped to see the buildings around Harvard Yard on our way back to the garage.

Widener Library

Widener Library was closed on Sunday morning, but was still impressive in its huge massiveness. The thought of all those books housed in such a beautiful structure makes me giddy!

Memorial Church

We found Memorial Church, and snapped a few pictures. It was built in 1932 as a memorial to those who had died in World War I and to serve as Harvard’s church.

Pretty grounds at Harvard University

The day was getting late, and so with reluctance we found the parking garage and said farewell to Cambridge. Heading home, we decided to swing through Concord–home to some pretty famous writers back in the day. We drove past Thoreau’s Walden Pond. A little ways down the road was something even more remarkable and heartwarming . . . a community garden!

Community garden just outside Concord

Here where a few of our country’s great writers–Thoreau, Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nat Hawthorne–penned some pretty amazing American Literature, modern Concordians not only enjoy reading but also like growing their own food. According to the official Concord, MA website, “Concord has long supported community gardens and in 2010 has three community gardens on town land with over 100 plots. The burgeoning interest in gardening and local food production has ensured that two of the three gardens are subscribed to capacity, though there is limited turnover from year to year. East Quarter Farm Gardens, near Ripley School, was established in 2009 and still has plots available.”

Three community gardens on public land! Over one hundred plots! Two are filled to capacity!

There in a quaint, old, respected, historical, classy community we find three community gardens, while here in my exurban subdivision carved out of old farmland we have none because some people don’t want to live next door to a garden. How sad–and stupid. When is my community going to wake up?

Emerson's House

Perhaps if I were as effective a writer as Emerson or Thoreau, I could convince my fellow community members to find a place for a communal garden space, to change the bylaws which allow cutting trees in order to put in a swimming pool but not for a sunny garden area, and to begin changing our subdivision from a car-centric, single-use, unsustainable, exurban backwater into a walkable, mixed-use, connected, sustainable, green community.

Cambridge house on side-street

Or maybe I just need to get out of Dodge for awhile.

Stay tuned in the next week or so as Outside the Box travels to Washington D.C.