Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Urban Terrain



Washington DC is a surprisingly green city, bursting with trees, lawns, gardens, parks, and two beautiful rivers. Ordinarly I tend to focus on the living green world when I think about the terrain in which I live.

But truth is, much of the terrain here is made from concrete, brick and asphalt. No denying it - cities are paved landscapes, which is, in many ways a nice thing. I know I should be against all the pavement, but it does serve a practical purpose. Riding a bike is far easier on a street than cross country, walking on sidewalks is so great on rainy days (walking through mud isn't as much fun).

During the summer, all that concrete and asphalt contributes to the feeling of being scalded, roasted and steamed, but in winter, the streets soak up sunlight and provide a tiny bit of warmth. Winter tree shadows are splendid on nice black asphalt. I can't resist staring at them and photographing them, over and over again.

With our shoes, bikes, strollers, shopping carts, and cars, we city dwellers have adapted to the paved landscape. Many of us urban folks would be completely undone trying to move around over a "natural" landscape.

Of course, it's all natural. The asphalt, concrete and brick does not come from outer space. Sidewalks and streets are manipulated natural materials, not that different than squirrel nests, ant hills or beaver dams, except we're larger animals, and have opposable thumbs. And of course we get carried away sometimes and just can't stop our manipulation of the landscape, so we end up with completely paved cities like San Francisco and New York where the green earth only has tiny islands in which to express itself.

DC is the perfect balance of paved and unpaved which is yet one more reason I am so in love with this crazy, beautiful city. Why not appreciate the asphalt? Why not?

10 comments:

Steve said...

Indeed! Asphalt and grass, ultimately all one thing. Thanks for helping me see that!

Barbara said...

I can see you are experimenting with sepia or at least taking out the color. Interesting results.

Squirrel said...

When I lived in Manhattan, I always loved the protection provided by the massive buildings. When it is very windy, raining sideways, or 2 degrees, the buildings provided warmth and calm. It was like walking at the bottom of a canyon sometimes, very surreal world of stone.

lettuce said...

tis funny, isn't it, how people see the activities of human beings as not part of nature....

i've been enjoying shadows on brick and asphalt lately too, on our odd sunny days

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

It's all part of what we've created - it may not seem natural but then again...

Reya Mellicker said...

Barbara, the filter on the unity pic is called "stamp" (whatever that means). I also made it darker and cranked up the contrast. The first pic is full color. Cool, eh?

Yes, Squirrel, a canyon! Yes. I've felt that in New York, too.

Steve you are welcome! You make me think almost every day. I appreciate it.

One of the bones I have to pick with my original religion, Judaism, is that idea that man is above nature, or here to control it, that we are separate from it. That thought form has caused so many problems. Whew!! Judaism, and many kinds of Christianity have finally turned towards being "green" whatever that means. The old thought form is fading - at last! Late, but better than never, I think.

dennis said...

Dennis is in perfect harmony with nature. Dennis can sniff the wind and smell a field mouse across the yard. Dennis likes to roll in grass and leaves, and dust and Dennis even likes asphalt.

kimy said...

but, why I'm I suddenly humming joni's big yellow taxi?

altho I love nature, I do love cities and washington is one purty city! l'enfant was one smart cookie when he laid out the basic plan!

Gary said...

I am with you. Why not appreciate the asphalt? Why not appreciate everything in this 'crazy, beautiful' world?

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes! Why not?