Here in Manhattan we have an amenity of great Joy and Delight;
tree pits, the pits. They are the smallish (4' x 5', sometimes longer,
4' x 8' or so) planter things that punctuate at regular intervals our
sidewalks on residential blocks. I do not know how deep they are
or if they reach down to the natural substrate of the island.
Occasionally they support very large trees who's trunks you cannot
get your arms around or, they may attain a height of 4 or 5 stories.
Along side these solo trees, often now, the pits support fabulous
little gardens tended by tenants disposed to gardening and loveliness
or, are contracted out to local pro gardeners who propagate these
little miracles with panache and horticultural success.
Geniuses All !
The pits, when tended are beautiful. Only some urgent matter
prevents me from stopping and inhaling their glory.
Here is the thing though; enemies abound, threats from
various sources, lurk on every block.
There is a sign attached to a tree. The tree is surrounded by
plants and flowers. Sign says, “Please Have Respect”, with a
silhouette of a dog taking a leak in a circle with a line through it
thing. Can this sign make a difference? I don't think so.
More likely at night than in daylight, a dog might be allowed
to jump into the pit, defecate and then paw up the offended soil.
Hence the sign. I must note here, pro dog walkers of which there are
many do not commit these atrocities. Nor do my decent and
conscientious neighbors who live on this block.
Next come the rats. And mice. If on a pleasant enough night
I'm stooping with the neighbors, starting at twilight, our pit resident
rodents come out of there holes and start scooting from
the pits to the buildings or, to the garbage neatly bagged and piled
by good supers for pick-up the following morning. Besides gnawing
on roots or spring flower bulbs, the rodents bring exterminators and
their potions which keep the canines away but can't be good for the
plants or for the predators and scavengers who might enjoy rodents.
Next comes the garbage. Garbage garbage garbage. How do you
see a beautiful thriving plot of plants and say “I'm done with this
cup and I'll just drop it here”. Or a beer can or a free newspaper,
when there is a receptacle at either corner you are headed for
and a few more on the way. “Not my block”.
Next the cars. Do they teach parallel parking in sub-urban
driver-ed?, one must wonder. Some folks seem to think getting your
back wheels up on the sidewalk ( or in the tree pits) is a tolerable
strategy for parking in N.Y.C. It is not!! Some pits have (had) little
fences round their perimeters. When run over and smashed or torn
out altogether, I imagine the driver cursing at that which they have
Weeds; The last torment I'll mention here is a pedestrian one.
The wind or some bird poop or even myself tossing an apple core
might bring some invasive species into the teeny garden, tourists
contrary to the design or concept of the careful gardener.
Writing this now, I sit in a park by the river. The sound of distant
cars only mutter behind the poetic slosh of water on the rocks.
And there are willow trees. I love a willow tree.
As a cook, I say, “I'll never make anything as good as a good
ripe peach”. I feel similarly about a good weeping willow. They bow
to me and I bow to them. How could I ever hurt them?
Folks walking dogs, sleeping on the grass or pursuing their
health at a jog or a run. Someone yonder is feeding ducks, maybe
geese. I don't see well and the light retreats.
Tree pits are like parks and versa visa. The only difference a
matter of scale. Pockets of Joy (closer now, they're geese) and
recreation ( to create again) bestowed upon us by civil society,
antidotes for the toxicity that can sometimes be super urban life.
As aerobic beings we are at our worst, our most self-centered
when we fail to respect and appreciate those beings who provide
of us, for our benefit and simple survival, the very air we breath.
All of us.
The difference between a tree pit and a forest is only a matter
of scale. Disregard for those two similar and different things and
everything in between, is the gravest of errors.
My advice here? Take care of those who take care of you. Of us.
Some how the tree pits survive. Now and then you may find a pit
barren, untended. The soil dry and littered. A weed or two but
nothing more, sometimes there isn't a tree.
But these pits are only waiting for the right soul to come along
and show some love. Let's all hope the neglected pit is a snapshot
of the past and not the future. On second thought, hope won't work.
Gardeners work. Gardeners great and small, commend them.
Paradise is a garden,
Let's not burn this one down !!
Now let's look at