1. On Wednesday, Stephen and I took the 1 train north to 215th Street in Inwood, which is just about as far as you can go in Manhattan. Our destination was a community garden adjacent to Isham Park known as "Bruce's Garden" in honor of Bruce Reynolds, a police officer who died on 9/11. Bruce grew up in the neighborhood and, along with his parents, was instrumental in rehabilitating Isham Park, which by the 1960s had fallen into serious disrepair. (The Reynolds were also one of the first African-American families to move into what was traditionally an Irish-American enclave.)
2. In the 1960's, the garden was a vacant lot and -- like many parks around the city -- was filled with trash and abandoned cars.
3. Having arrived a few minutes early for my reading, we strolled through the garden. At almost fifty years old, there's no sign of its decrepit past. It felt somehow less "curated" than many of the city's parks, but was all the more charming as a result. Like the best examples of folk art, there's a sense of love and artistry of the form that transcends "technique."
4. Somehow, a group of New Yorkers has managed to work together for five decades to create something magical; I don't know anything about the organization of the garden, but my sense -- having met some of them -- is that volunteers come and go, yet the organizational structure survives and -- based on the results -- thrives.
5. In times marked by large-scale corruption, increasing inequality, and other threats to institutional democracy, a community garden is a good reminder that (some) people are capable of creating magic in the world.
6. Which is not to say that all is placid at the garden.
7. Inwood, like many uptown neighborhoods, is trying to negotiate how to deal with the less savory effects of gentrification. A proposal to rezone the neighborhood would allow much higher buildings than what currently exist, and housing costs are going up. Many of the volunteers I met were nervous about the future.
8. On this night however, it seemed better not to worry too much.
9. After a solid week of rain, the sun was shining through the leaves. The garden was glowing and hypnotic.
10. The trees, having lived for fifty years, reassured us that they planned on fifty more.