I’m currently in Minneapolis for the big annual Unitarian Universalist meeting. Minneapolis has some lovely green spaces in the heart of the city. It also has some big areas of the city that aren’t lovely, places where regular people try to live.
When I consider the contemporary application of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35), one of the ways I understand our failings that dictate creating the cities is through the larger ecosphere. The fact is that while some cities have beautiful parks and green bands, most cities don’t have enough of them or restrict those places to those who can pay for admission.
Human beings are part of Nature. Separating ourselves from the ecosphere limits our senses and deprives us from developing our connections with the wider world. If we fear the world in which we live (Gah! Pollen! Bees! Sun! Quickly! Inside!), then we do not learn easily how to treat this world with reverence. Indeed, we learn that when we’re afraid, we should retreat and not interact. Learning to enclose our fears through walls creates neither true refuge nor a better more loving and less fearful world.
I had the good fortune to be in a park at the lunch hour yesterday. Lots of people scurried through the park, on their way to various appointments. A few folks were working to keep the grounds in their refulgent abundance. An even smaller number of folks were engaging the park with wonder: watching the birds hunt their meal and make nests, discovering the different bees and wasps amid the flowers, meeting one another in this splendid oasis.
Many of our cities have pockets of abandoned space. As we have seen in city activists all over the world, small groups of people can claim these spaces and turn them into community gardens, parks, and other refuges of green wonder that reintegrate people with Nature. As many of our cities suffer contraction in this current economy, we have another opportunity for such pockets of wonder and refreshment. And, as usual, it is up to us to create the world in which we wish to live.
Look around you. Where might green space expand? How can your community come together in creating a real refuge of restoration? Who else can you invite and involve? Together, we cultivate the garden of caring. Together, we bloom anew.