Since returning from Albuquerque last month, where I spoke at the New Mexico Xeriscape Council's national conference on water conservation and sustainable landscaping, I've been thinking about the rich rewards of living close to nature, of nurturing the community of the land right at home.
My husband, Richard, and I live on a half-block of formerly decaying industrial property on what used to be the wrong side of town, a place that once was a blight in its neighborhood and now blooms so exuberantly with wildflowers in summer that passers-by stop to take pictures. Our kitchen garden, sprouting in raised beds where above-ground oil tanks once sat, is so bountiful that we feed friends and family and still have enough left over to feast ourselves. Our house, while not yet finished, is so full of light and so inclusive of the views from all around that people exclaim in delight about its connection to the world outside when they walk inside.
In the decade-plus since Richard and I adopted this property, we've put in a lot of work. But it hasn't been hard, or expensive to return the place to health. It just took vision, and a good deal of stubbornness. (The latter, anyone who knows me will tell you, is a quality I have in spades.) The return for our work is an abundance of joy in watching what we've nurtured grow and flourish. Greening this half-block gives us hope that our species can have a positive impact on the places we live. It's profoundly uplifting to see what living lovingly and generously on the land can do. It brings us home as part of the community of the land right here where we live. That's a gift I cherish.
(For more on the story of our restoration of what we only half-jokingly call our "decaying industrial empire," read my entry in the Audubon Magazine blog: "Greening our very own decaying industrial empire.")