Earth Day, an ode to green space

 Azaleas around the neighborhood

Azaleas around the neighborhood

Happy Earth Day! We got a perfect spring weather weekend in DC for this glorious holiday. Instead of rattling off a list of things we could all do to be better to the planet, today I'm going back to square one and thinking about my relationship with the green spaces around me.

I feel pretty tuned in with the Earth most days. I check the weather. I go for walks. I know what's in bloom when and where around my neighborhood. This spring I've been frustrated that the scent of spring hasn't arrived yet. It's probably one of the scents that I most associate with my childhood - waking up on a Saturday morning and going outside to the smell of spring flowers, dewey grass, and full trees. I grew up with a large yard that my parents had filled to the brim with a variety of different flowers, trees, and bushes. They basically collected outdoor plants the way I collect indoor ones. Cutting the grass of our enormous yard was my chore to earn the privilege of driving. And though my family no longer owns my childhood home, my memories are scented with those spring / summer mornings and sound like birds chirping and the lawn mower going. 

Growing up, I was surrounded by nature, which I completely took for granted. I thought I was a city girl at heart, in need of being near a shopping mall at all times. To an extent I am still like that, (but replace mall with artisanal coffee shops) but these days I find myself more interested in enjoying the space of city, the intersection of nature and the built environment, and the delicate balance between urban and natural that my neighborhood in particular boasts. 

In the morning I start my day off with a walk around the neighborhood with my dog, Rosie. We walk down the trails that border on streams that are filled with feral cats, ducks, squirrels, and the occasional deer or wild chicken. Living in the city, or a city-lite neighborhood, what I love most about the environment around us, is the shared-ness of the space. The community. The appreciation. It's a place we can all be and escape. Where we can all take our time and enjoy. It's where I clear my head, go for my runs, say hi to my dog neighbors, and take the many photos of flowers and trees that you've seen on our Instagram feed. It's a unifying connection for so many of us that don't have the luxury of private green space, and an escape from small space living and the busy day-to-day of city life.

Green space gives me life, and while my weekday hobby is studying the bloom cycles of my neighbors' gardens, my weekend hobby is exploring bigger green spaces. Whether it's taking a walk around the National Mall, or taking a day trip to a botanical garden, being in these spaces refreshes me, recharges me, inspires me, and changes my perspective. In the age of Instagram, these places can often feel like a checklist on a must-photograph list, but I love how engaged we've become with the spaces around us. Last summer, everyone in DC visited the Kenilworth Lotus Ponds and the sunflower wildlife management areas to take selfies of course, but you can't set foot there without also experiencing the wonder and magic of the spaces themselves. 

So as you participate in your neighborhood cleanups, or take a nice long walk through a park, or set up composting bins in your yard this Earth Day, take a moment to pause, to take in the space around you, and to breathe. There's this one spot on our neighborhood trail where the water rushes around rocks, babbling, and it's my daily place to slow down, to take a breath, and just be for a moment. To feel sustained and supported by the world around us. Because it's not just that we need to take care of the planet, the planet takes care of us.