Vacant Land

In Brooklyn, there are 596 acres of vacant, city-owned land, according to 596 Acres, a group that identified all the vacant lots in the borough and have been helping community members start gardens on that land. What better way to use these neglected lots than to grow healthy food, create a sense of community, and provide aesthetic beauty that weeds and trash behind a chain-link fence cannot? Maybe this isn’t “development” in the way that a new condo might be, but it is the cultivation of something much deeper, a sort of development that allows us to see green, experience growth and feel connected. When we see vegetation, we feel grounded, as if seeing and feeling roots reminds us of where our own roots clutch.

Read the excellent profile of the organization in the New York Times here. Only three gardens, covering 0.223 acres, have been started thus far. But that is land that was previously uncultivated, left behind to sit and wait until the next building comes along. There are hands working in the ground now that weren’t there before, and the number of acreage will only grow.

596 Acres has provided some order to what was the chaos of urban agriculture in New York City, where it sometimes felt like the only options were to toss seed bombs into vacant lots or to occupy land at the risk of eviction. Now, they have created a site we can utilize to figure out which agency owns which piece of land, and to create a more lasting solution.

Just as we survey our city, identifying areas that need an infusion of beauty and care, we can also survey our bodies and minds, survey our souls and find the neglected lots, the vacant land. We are only visitors on this land, visitors in these bodies; let us make our time in them as meaningful as possible.

By caring for our bodies and our city, we can transcend the physical and leave a mark on the psyche of our community, leave a mark measured in moments of spontaneous, unconscious fulfillment when we work so intently and passionately that we forget the time of day, forget the soreness in our wrists and backs, and remember only that we are flourishing, and that this is what we were meant to do all along.

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