ADMISSION: THIS IS AN OPINION PIECE, A RANT, IF YOU WILL
That said, with California stealing headlines, thanks to our historic drought, the LADPW’s offer of grass for cash here in Los Angeles feels like a win-win, no-brainer. Lose your water-guzzling lawn, and get paid handsomely to do it. One could think of it as Saving the Planet With Benefits. But the fact is, tearing up your lawn only to lay down DG and even a few paltry succulents, or worse, a gravel pee-pad, is just “paving paradise to put up a parking lot”, to paraphrase Joni.
“We can reclaim biodiversity and habitats within human landscapes.”
– Thomas Rainer
That scaly fellow swaying from our coast rosemary (Westringia) is a San Diego Alligator lizard. He was kicking it in the bush midday, most likely on the hunt for the airborne critters visiting the purple flowers that bloom winter through spring. It’s been cold here for LA, and I suspect food is tricky to come by. The sighting was a victory of sorts. One year ago, our yard was a dirt hole. Now, there’s a lot of things like that lizard creeping, crawling and flying around here. The yard is alive, and I don’t mind saying, I’m proud of that fact. Turning our property into habitat has been a dream since the day we set eyes on the place. I feel strongly about this. In fact, if I could, I’d make it a law: Anyone lucky enough to own a home with any amount of land should be required to make 50% of that property habitat for the local flora and fauna. That’s right, a law, punishable by death…or…no internet access.
Seth Brundle: You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…
When we bought our house , our yard was a sloppy rectangle of dead pomegranate trees, dried earth and a riddle of busted pipes. Sian was 6 months pregnant, so the priority was that which lay under the new roof, but my heart was focused on the yard. I was, my wife might say, obsessed. Well, I had a dream. I dreamed of creating a magical, urban jungle that my daughter could get lost in, critters would flock (or crawl) to, and friends would wander, drinks in hand, fully inspired. I dreamed of creating a habitat that would be boldly in-sync with the great Mediterranean Chaparral ecosystem that surrounds Los Angeles, and be a model for bridging man and nature in the 21st Century. Ten months later, I’m not even close. Nature, it turns out, has no regard for my wants. Continue reading Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden→
A little while back, I wrote about the decimation of the Monarch butterfly population in my garden at the hands of a Chinese Mantis. Well, behold the lady in question, all three inches of her. With huge spiked claws 1/3 her body length and wide-set eyes with a binocular field of vision, this non-native, invasive lady is built to kill.
And so, as much as I hate her for her impact on the already struggling Monarch migration, I must admit, she’s terrifyingly cool to stare at…especially given the hair raising way she stares back.
I have been accused of being earnest and an idealist. The implication being I’m some sort of shiny-eyed optimist who believes we can mitigate humanities ravages of the planet by making everyone plant milkweed for butterflies. But I promise, get a few beers in me and I’ll happily launch into a dark rant about the genocidal and suicidal leanings of humanity. No animal on earth is better built for self-destruction than us. But, focusing on oblivion is not a healthy use of this sensitive Pisces’ time. And now, with Niko in the mix, it would be downright selfish. Seriously, only an asshole would bring a kid into the world without focusing on, and trying to create, tools for a sustainable tomorrow. Because I own a home in environmentally challenged Los Angeles, I tend to focus large and small scale projects that have the ability to radically impact our overall quality of life, promote biodiversity and rebuild greenspace wherever possilible. So logically, I’m thinking of Staten Island…
My wife writes on a TV show that shoots in New York City. Twice a year or so, she needs to be on set for about 3 weeks. Up until Niko was born, this meant I got to wander Manhattan and Brooklyn, eat a lot of food, and meet old friends for drinks. Post-Niko, I can’t wheel around so freely. Luckily, the 26th street entrance to the High Line Park is three blocks away from where we stay, and I’ve taken to walking the length of it daily. I’m not alone. The staggering success of this post-industrial eyesore turned iconic city park is renowned world-wide, and evident from the throngs of locals and visitors alike wandering it’s 1.5 mile length, cameras pressed to faces, shooting in all directions, rain or shine.
Floating above Chelsea, The High Line sublimely removes you from, and gives you a richer context for, the city you are in. It reminds me of the utopian designs imagined by Buckminster Fuller, of a city living in balance and harmony, saved by smart, conscious design. From its forested start at Gansevoort Street all the way to wild weeds of 31st Street, The High Line has a singular ability to constantly reframe Manhattan historically, architecturally and, most important from my perspective, naturally. Among all that the High Line is, an often overlooked thing is plant and animal habitat on a scale I didn’t think was possible in Manhattan. From spring into fall, the flowering plants of the High Line are vibrating with pollinators like honey bees, wasps, Monarch butterflies and Swallowtail butterflies, to name a few.