What A Yard Can Be

The act of owning property is profound in that you become responsible for stewarding this one piece of our big old Earth. It is bizarre in that you can hide it, you can build a fence around it and tell people to stay away.

You can let just grass grow, which is not only boring, but “the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from lawn-related maintenance is four times the amount of carbon naturally collected and stored by the lawn itself.”

As our Summer of Solutions program has ended, as we look to Fall and to the next year, those of us at LETS GO Chicago are taking a moment to reflect before we dream up our future. As I harvested tomatoes (my favorite!) in our CSA garden today, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was in an exceptional space–that what was around me was not only beautiful, but full of life, engaging–a shared space that many people love together.

Many people loving something together–that is not a phrase I would use to describe a well-manicured lawn!

And reflecting further, I thought back to the things I have learned in that garden, how to harvest this or that, the way to handle certain kinds of blight, the value of composting, lasagna gardening to reclaim grass-covered lawn and perhaps most importantly the people I’ve met there, the laughs we have shared–the incredible, incredible totality of what that space is. I glanced up at our giant sunflower and thought, “Dang, this is the right way to use property!”



I guess this whole thing is just a giant love letter to Steve, our neighbor and friend who took a risk a few years ago and let some kooky environmentalists take a small part of his backyard and start growing in it. It’s a love letter to the CSA members who took a chance on us and have eaten officially now hundreds of produce, it’s a love letter to the members of LETS GO Chicago and every volunteer who has given their time and hands to the soil, it’s a love letter to everyone who donated money or a plant, it’s a love letter to my dear garden, a place I have come to love so much.

It’s not only a love letter, but it’s a recognition of what we’ve done. It’s recognizing that hundreds of pounds of food were not shipped to our neighborhood using fossil fuels this summer. It’s recognizing that I learned how to garden this summer. It’s recognizing that some of us are a little more food independent now. It’s recognizing that not only can neighbors trust each other, they can build together. Dang!

There’s a lot of ways to attack lawns, to portray them as atmosphere-killing time wasters that have no purpose and exclude people from spaces, but what if instead we asked what a lawn could be, like Steve did? What if instead we dreamed about what a space like that can be? What if we started growing food together all over, and we put art in between, and read poetry there, and taught children there, and took naps there, and and and etc. etc. etc.

What can a yard be? I’m not sure there’s any limits.


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