In the last few days, months, really years I have reflected on the nature of space. I count myself as blessed to live in a city that has green spaces all around, including my backyard which backs up against wooded areas and a beautiful field. From there, it blends with the Burlington Bike Path and down to the lake.In the last year, our mayor, a developer, has been working, with help from elected friends, to erode the green spaces that make our city so special. In the last few months, I have been working with a grass-roots organization (Save Open Space-Burlington at http://saveopenspaceburlington.org/) to support our elected officials in becoming more accountable, and to educate the public on what is happening in all our backyards. Its been eye-opening for me, and illuminating, to discover how intrenched our political landscape has become, and how, like one of my colleagues said, that we as a community have become complacent and, well, sheep like (no offense to the lovely sheep out there simply being themselves). I have been simultaneously encouraged and depressed. After three major events sponsored by Save Open Space-Burlington in the last three months in which we have invited people to consider what open space is, and means for us as a community, I now know that there is a lot of interest in our human community about open space. It often gets pitted against the need for decent housing(which will be another blog), and which then brings about the question of who needs the space more? For me it also begs the question of Whose lives matter the most? In the last few days, I have heard that a local civic community center has been talking with developers about possibly putting housing up in a field that is directly behind our neighborhood in the NNE. This is now very close to home. This is an area that is used by two high schools for track meets in the spring and fall, and cross-country skiing in the winter. Countless dog walkers and hikers and joggers, and a plethora of bees, butterflies, owls, eagles and hawks, deer, bunnies, fox, and turkey live on and use the space. I’m sure there are other species as well. We have Hermit Thrushes as well. Hermit Thrush need enough wooded area to feel safe.The communities that exist and co-exist in this rich field and wooded area would be decimated if the space were developed.
I spend a lot of time in the back of my house simply watching the world that exists in the feathered and furry communities. I find that I go there to catch my breath, to meditate, and to silently drink tea as the birds and squirrels have breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. I find that I am drawn to this space where our gardens are and where we have a Medicine Wheel and ceremony area in which many deep healings have taken place.
Today I watch as the plants spring back, the sap begins to run, and the world begins to wake up from its long and very cold winter sleep. Mother nature is preparing to rise and shine as Spring is wont to do. As I watch, I am aware of my own process of deep sadness: how incredibly ignorant we are as a human species, ego driven to think that we as humans might have more sense than the animal kingdom that has lived in these woods and fields for centuries before us!
If condos go into this area, we might well help in the demise of several species. This brings me to anger. As a practicing Buddhist, I work at moderation and particularly moderation of emotions such as anger. But I find myself both sad and angry, and trying to understand how anyone could even conceive of taking down these woods, or destroying the land behind Burlington College (with the last remaining vista of the lake that is unadulterated by housing), or how we consider ourselves as being more important than the lives of the flora and fauna and animals that have lived here long before us.
I have decided to track the woods and fields to see the changes of the seasons. I welcome your thoughts and comments and stories. We need to tell our stories. What does green space mean for you where you live? If you are local to Burlington Vermont, how have you traversed these woods? What does space mean to you? What do you notice? How does walking in the woods make you feel? Does any of this matter to you? Can we, as a collective, come to an understanding about the Nature of the Spaces we live in that takes into account voices of those who cannot speak our language? I hope so for all our sakes.