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Monday, November 14, 2011

Wanderlust (Nov. 13, 2011)

A few mornings ago I wandered, and it was wonder-filled. Apparently the fast pace I usually keep took a toll on me and some part of my brain knew I needed the freedom that wandering brings. It’s the antidote to a life filled with to do lists.

I was pulled toward a beachside neighborhood full of narrow walkways connecting the main drag to the beach. Because of this set-up, it has become a place that is ideal for walking. Perhaps the laid-back beachy environment makes it perfect for wandering rather than hurrying. Every hundred feet there is another walkway, flanked by tiny houses and apartments, opening up the adventure, offering walkers choice after choice, a new possibility with every turn.

One patio space was only five feet deep by seven feet wide but the gardener packed it with a lemon tree, tomato plants, a ficus tree, succulents and other plants. Bravo!

So many small spaces were transformed by plants:

I ended up wandering up and down these walkways, and also took side routes through alleys. Some people wouldn’t think that alleys make for great blogging material, but they clearly need to wander alleys more. I’m not saying it’s always scenic. You walk by trash cans, and even I must admit they aren’t necessarily the most exciting scenery. But alleys are home to a lot more than garbage cans. You just have to be open to it.

As I walked, I realized that I was collecting ideas for a blog piece. (I love it when the pieces find me, rather than my needing to rack my brain for material!) The secret life of alleys. I noticed how people had tucked gardens into the smallest, most humble places. Being obsessed with plants, this delighted me! I know I’m not the only person on earth who has discovered the magic of growing things. But sometimes I feel surprised delight when I notice how many other gardening enthusiasts there are out there.

This patio container garden is full of color and gusto:

I love walking through neighborhoods, seeing how home owners or renters personalize their space. Although the professionally-landscaped yards are pretty, my favorites are the gardens done by the residents. I’m a big Do It Yourselfer and I appreciate it when someone has taken their time, energy, and passion and planted something or decorated a space. They care so much about their plants and homes and you see it how they decorate them. The smaller yards are conducive to creativity, too. You are forced to be creative when space is limited.

My walk was amazing on various levels. Getting out, hearing the waves crash, and enjoying some solitary time felt healing. Wandering, with no rush, no agenda, no noise, and no restrictions also met a need I didn’t even realize I had that day. Third, discovering so many plants during my wander really boosted my mood. Plants are life. Plants give beauty. There’s something very satisfying about growing something, nurturing it and watching it develop. When you plant something, you give but also receive. Seeing pocket gardens dotted throughout my walk just lifted my spirit. The fact that people chose to fill small spaces shows that they find plants as meaningful as I do. It shows how much nurturing there is in the world. It’s satisfying for the gardener but also brightens the day of anyone who walks by. People who have no back yards get really creative about bringing color and life to an alley, or to whatever small area is their outdoor living space. There were many window boxes in the alleys, and even atop fences.

This border of succulents filled a small area between parking spaces and a house, and despite its being less than a foot wide, it packed a lot of punch:

One property had an amazing rock and succulent garden, filling a front yard measuring approximately nine by nine feet. Instead of the small size being a disappointment, the effect was that of a beautifully framed piece of art:

Maybe filling a small space actually makes for a more dynamic garden, as small spaces fill up quickly, giving a fuller effect, an abundant rather than minimalist look. A spot of color or any sign of something growing inspires me. One lone plant, growing despite a lack of space, water and light feels like a sign of optimism and perseverance. How can you not cheer on a plant growing from a tiny patch of earth in a narrow alley that doesn’t get much sun? It’s the underdog and yet it doesn’t know this. It simply wants to thrive and so it does. It doesn’t talk itself out of thriving. It doesn’t weigh the odds and decide they are too steep and why bother. Plants just persevere. Seeing plants grow and all the symbolism this included felt like encouragement in a week when I really needed it.

This tree is growing from a small piece of dirt and it gives life to a very blah alley:

This renter decided to go vertical with plants, using the staircase to house pepper plants:

Upon returning to the truck my mood was many times better than when I started wandering. I was inspired by people’s creativity despite lack of space. I was reminded that the most imaginative creations are often born from having to deal with obstacles or limitations. It was a fun wander, a plant-filled self-tour, beauty found in alleys, and wherever I looked I saw how people had chosen to personalize their spaces, had chosen to grown things, and had chosen to find a way to get what they needed, no matter how small the space available. A lot of people would find the space limitations daunting, but those people who decided to go for it inspired me. Instead of saying “Why bother?” they said “Why not?” and because those people were determined to have plants where they live, a whole neighborhood was brought to life.

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