October 1, 2022

The meadow

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:17 pm by chavisory

The last few years I’ve been going home to the Midwest more often in the summertime, as various factors have made it the easier time to have large family gatherings, and the pandemic has made it the safer time, too. But almost never is it the case that I see anything that makes me happier about new development in the area where I grew up. There’s always a new subdivision of identical-looking houses in yards without trees. Another cheap-looking strip mall of chain restaurants and mobile phone stores on former grassland or woodland. Almost all of the woods along Highway 9 into Parkville are strip mall now. A local shopping development turned a patch of grassland into parking decks and chain stores and restaurants, and the pandemic subsequently turned most of it into a ghost town.

My old school district, last I checked, was planning to put a new elementary and high school complex on the site of some of the very last original forest in the city.

But this year when I was back for the 4th of July, as we turned off the highway on the way home from the airport, a corner plot of land that had been a usually-fallow soybean field for as long as I could remember, and then untended scrub that I was increasingly afraid was about to become another barren housing development any minute, was, somehow, forest. Extremely young forest, probably not more than four or six acres, but forest. It was a variety of shock I’ve never experienced before in my life. Somehow the opposite both of turning a corner to see a building where there wasn’t one before, and of turning to find a patch of sky where last you checked there was a building. For a second I was so disoriented I doubted where we were, even though I’ve driven that way probably hundreds of days of my life.

A friend said that apparently there’d been an agreement made to leave the plot undeveloped as flood control. Another roadside plot a little ways down is now a monarch butterfly preserve full of wildflowers and milkweed, and a sparse patch of woods across the street is protected watershed.

I’ve seen buildings both appear and disappear seemingly in the blink of an eye. I’ve come back to the city from summer stock to find apartment buildings where there had been a parking deck or a vacant lot. I’ve seen buildings demolished and natural habitats destroyed for buildings, and buildings long since decayed and abandoned and the land they occupied gone feral. I know of places this has been allowed to happen, though mostly long before I was born, like North Brother Island or Doodletown. Earlier this year as I returned home from a hike via a subway station I hadn’t used much in recent months, I emerged onto the sidewalk to a patch of sky I’d never seen before in my life where an older building had been demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development. The new building rose and eventually blotted out the sky again, but for a few weeks, a patch of sky existed that hadn’t been seen for decades.

I’d never seen a piece of land restored to something approaching wildness within such a shockingly small amount of time.

And I didn’t think I was going to see such a thing twice in one summer, either, but back in NYC, I was out walking in Central Park one night and took a turn up a trail I don’t follow much because it only led to a scraggly hillside along the road dividing the Ravine and North Woods from the ballfields. But I did, and rounded a corner to find a landscape I’d never seen before.

Signs on nearby fences said that the Central Park Conservancy was restoring a plot of native meadow.

There were plants I’d never seen before, insect sounds I’d never heard before, a kind of light I’d never seen, about half a mile from the apartment where I’ve lived for 18 years. Clouds of chimney swifts darted across the sky above.

As I stood and just looked at it, I watched probably half a dozen people stop and do the same. I like the idea that for people who are kids now, this is just the way it will have always been.

[Three photos of an urban meadow with tall grasses and purple and yellow wildflowers under a deep blue sky]

January 5, 2022

Drop

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:44 am by chavisory

[Image description: A single drop of water hangs from a twig of a bare, reddish brown tree branch, against a gray-blue sky.]

From a walk in the park a couple of days ago, a fitting image I thought for the start of a new year when many things still feel impending.

September 22, 2021

The farewell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:41 am by chavisory

This grasshopper has been trapped in my kitchen all week. I heard him singing one night and spotted him high up in a corner. For days I left the window open, thinking he’d find his way out the way he probably found his way in, but unlike the moths and stinging insects who usually do, he didn’t.

One night as my roommates and I stood around talking, he made his way all the way around the perimeter of the kitchen before setting on the power cord to the hanging paper lantern, but for days and days, made no move towards the window.

I was afraid he’d eventually just die in here from lack of water, but he also wouldn’t come down low enough for me to nab him in a container and take him back outside.

Finally this morning when I got up for breakfast, I didn’t see him right away, and hoped he’d made his escape, but as I started putting away clean dishes, I nearly grabbed him where he was sitting on the handle of a fork in the silverware rack. He didn’t move. I found an empty takeout container and started nudging him into it with the lid, but maybe sensing the help he knew he needed, he mostly went of his own volition.

I took him out back and set the container on the fire escape and figured he’d just go at that point, and when I returned a few minutes later, I at first thought he had, but then found him sitting on my apple mint plant in a nearby pot.

Wondering if he was weak or dehydrated, I put a little candle holder full of water in the pot where I hoped he’d get to it, and left for work.

Getting home unexpectedly early, I once again looked and at first thought he was gone, before spotting him still perched on the mint plant, though he had at least re-positioned himself slightly. I decided to sit outside myself for a while, and as I sat in the cool air of the last night of summer listening to a baseball game, he began to chirp softly.

And then I happened to look over just in time to see him climb up a few leaves to sit right at the top of the apple mint, where he swayed for a moment before he leapt and flew off down the alley.

Can you see him?

February 2, 2021

Sorry, friend, no snacks today!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:16 pm by chavisory

Image is of a fluffy grey-brown squirrel, cautiously edging towards me on the snow-covered handrail of a wooden bridge over a creek in Central Park.

December 30, 2020

Waterways

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:07 pm by chavisory

I went out on a final hike of the year yesterday, since it was supposed to be cold but clear. The inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek was mostly a frozen mud flat, but whether due to natural currents or use by water birds, some little rivulets remained free-flowing.

October 17, 2020

Good morning from the anarchist jurisdiction

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:20 pm by chavisory

February 18, 2020

Falling backwards (A tiny late valentine to Pluto)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:20 pm by chavisory

I learned from a Twitter friend this morning that today is the 90th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by researcher Clyde Tombaugh! (I meant to make this post for Valentine’s Day, but this is better.) Only recently did I learn that the now-famous heart-shaped region of Pluto, the Tombaugh Regio, is named for him, because somewhat coincidentally, I’ve become obsessed with this song this week:

But the even neater coincidence is this song, whose lyrics conclude

“The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity.
The heaviness that I hold in my heart’s been crushing me”

…was released in November of 2013.

The photographs revealing the heart of Pluto, the Tombaugh Regio, were not released until July of 2015.

(Some notes from the artist on the song and album are here.)

December 31, 2019

Cold twilight

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:24 pm by chavisory

IMG_0732

Wishing you all a restful, happy new year! I’m hoping to get back to writing a little bit more regularly in the new decade than I’ve been able to recently. In the meantime, enjoy this view from an evening walk in my hometown over Christmas!

September 7, 2019

Nighttime visitor

Posted in City life, Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:04 pm by chavisory

IMG_0460
Well hello, friend!

[Image depicts a bright green cricket hanging out on the inside of a white paper lantern in a dark kitchen at night.]

June 16, 2019

Pigeon standoff

Posted in City life, Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:53 pm by chavisory

It isn’t uncommon for me to wake to the sound of cooing or scratching pigeons–my building is bordered by alleyways on two sides–but one morning earlier this week, I was woken by that familiar sound… slightly too inside my window instead of out.

pigeon standoff
[Image description: A large, dark gray pigeon perches atop a stack of journals on top of my chest of drawers, beneath a photograph which he’s knocked askew.]

We had a little bit of a standoff while I caught my breath, figured out what to do, and naturally took a picture. Remembering a childhood incident in which a big crow had come down our chimney and gotten itself trapped in the living room, I opened the window wider and pulled the curtain aside so he could clearly see the only way out of the room, and a moment later he was …off on a different adventure for the day.

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