There is a Zen exercise where you contemplate the microcosmos of one square foot of land over days and weeks and months. I walk from my low-rent apartment on Parc avenue, along Saint-Viateur, through the shmatah district, through the derelict parking lot, and along the fence torn open, and finally I am on a large tract of wild land. I can breathe.
I pray here, watch the change of seasons, draw, read, write, and practice dance and voice. For eighteen years this has been my daily or weekly path. After nights of insomnia, I would come and sleep on the ground to let the earth absorb my anxiety. In my times of heartbreak, I would cry as loud as I needed to. I would sing as loud as I wanted to. I celebrated the fall and my birthday in this space with friends. I brought my neighbors, small children, here to marvel at nature. It is our magic place.
I pray to the four directions on a different square foot of that land, each time I visit. I see the sun rise to the East and set in the West. I lay on my back in the sunlight with tall grass around me, invisible to passers by but not those working way up in the factories. I need this place that is ruled by nature. Snow was dumped here, gravel dumped there, sometimes they cut the wild flowers, sometimes they let them grow. I climbed over dunes of snow and ice and watched the wind carry the drifts in perfect waves across the field at night. I walked through it when it had a crust of ice, when it was a swamp of spring mud. I have seen it sparkle with granular snow and awaken with pale violet mist on a summer morning. Dry blades of grass that stay standing through till the following spring. I saw the bunnies and the bugs and can see land do what land does when left alone. I can see the state of land in the city where I live on any given day here; what would be going on beneath the pavement before we were here and after we are gone. There is no gardener, no landscaper, except some guerilla ones working with native plants growing wild. People use this space for spontaneity, dog walking and photography, wild-crafting and picnicking.
I buried Boo and Kedgy the bird here. Alice buried Thomas of the white paws. I wonder how many skeletons are in this field? The field is sacred to me. I am grateful I have this piece of land to love and care for. Some people nailed pieces of plastic to the tree by the old rail dock. I climbed the tree, took out each offending nail, and cleaned up the garbage. I picked up syringes and carried out beer cans. I am fiercely protective of this place and I want to preserve it for others the way it has preserved me.