Climate Anxiety Counseling: Miantonomi Park, 8/5/19

Weather: Warm and bright

Number of people: 4 stoppers

Number of hecklers: 0!

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 5

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Tooth and Nail Community Support Collective: $1.00

Observations:

I had Elizabeth Malloy of Living on Earth, with me, listening and recording (with permission), to see if there’s a story in all of our stories. She also asked some questions, so if you see italicized text starting with E:, that’s her. (Italics with no initial are me, regular text is people who stopped at the booth.) Elizabeth will be with me at the booth for the rest of the season, at both the Providence and Newport sites, so come along if you’d like to be on the radio.

Sorry about all the [brackets] and …, I had a lot of fast-talking people today!

Nonhuman animal presences: seagull, ant on booth, monarch butterfly, red admiral??? butterfly, pigeons. Elizabeth saw a hawk.

Some conversations:

I was having that discussion with some people [at a recent music festival] and it was really interesting.

What was interesting about it?

For one, because some people were there who had kind of the same outlook as me, and then there were some people there who didn’t have the same outlook. I think it helped us us understand—well, it helped them understand the situation and it helped us understand where they were coming from. But it seemed like what they were saying was mostly from what they heard, not from what they experienced, where I’m talking from experience. I think it’s really because they’re not really doing their research—they’re just going by what they’re hearing. I try to pride myself on just having conversations, not believing everything I hear.

What were some of the things they had heard?

That there’s no such thing as global warming. Maybe they don’t even really think about it to try to figure it out, or maybe they don’t even care because they’re not gonna be around…I want to learn more because it takes so long to say anything. Some people who were part of this conversation knew a lot, and they were answering questions that I might’ve had too. I’m worried about what’s going on. I have a son. I live in Newport, we’re right near the water. I need to start learning, because I live near the water, and the tide might come up, and I might go under.

*

[This person, who works with the Newport Health Equity Zone, has taken on the assignment of asking market vendors and shoppers a different question about disaster each day.]

So my question of the day is: If the bridges were shut down both ways and you only had two days of food, how would you survive?

What have people been saying?

People have been saying they’d fish, grow gardens, trade stuff—a lot of trading. A lot of people said stealing, taking stuff. One little girl I aasked, she’s eleven, she said she’d look to her mom—she can’t really do stuff by herself so she’d look to her mom to carry her. [We’re trying to] find out what people know, maybe do a little class on survival. People don’t all have the resources they should or know everything they should. But the idea is, this is serious, climate change is serious, so what are you gonna do to prepare for it?

Do you have ideas about how you’d deal with it if it brings up new fears for people?

I would let them know that before this time period, people got through cold winters and they got through hot summers. There was a past [where people got through harsh conditions] and we can get through it, and you can get through it. There’s older people I’ve talked to and they’ve gone through it, they’re eighty years old.

How are you feeling about climate change yourself?

I don’t know. I’m personally scared. I’m not gonna lie, I just this year found out what climate change was. Now that I’m seeing it I don’t even know a lot of the things we’re using and we’re doing, but I feel like we’re making it worse. I’m really scared. I can say that.

People are scared to leave the island. You have everything you need here. But with climate change, we live on an island, so if all of downtown gets flooded, there’s not enough room for everyone to live up here. Would I be homeless? I’m scared of that. What if I’m a person who’s afraid of leaving? I mean, I’ve been places, but only for a week. This is where I’ve grown up, it’s where I was born, I went to elementary, middle and high school here. I’ve never had to go anywhere to work for a job, I’ve always found work here. You can leave, but why would you want to? I don’t know life outside of Newport—everything is here, all the resources I need are here, even though there are some resources that could be more.

What do you do when you feel those feelings that you just described?

I ignore it, I’m not gonna lie. And I feel like that’s the issue.

What do you think might make people more willing to not ignore it?

Knowing how to survive. If I knew how people work, how things work with electronics…But with things like washing close with your hands—I’m so impatient. I have a dishwasher, why would I spend time and wash each dish by hand?

E: It seems like for you, climate change correlates a lot with survival.

Yeah, like losing what you need to survive. Are you worried about losing other stuff?

… So like speaking for my future … I wanna help people with substance abuse, and it seems like with climate change that problem would get way bigger. No one would want to use that resource [of healing from addiction] because there would be nothing to live for. My Pop, my grandpa was in I think the Vietnam War, and he was getting high because the tragedy from it was so terrible. It’s like you’re not trying to be there, when you really need to be there.

Would you be willing to let go of some stuff before you had to?

At this point, honestly I would. Having these conversations [from the daily questions] really started to get me thinking about it. If it’s gonna give me a few years of time…

*

[This person started by reading the map of worries, which says, among other things, “Too many hotels and not enough parking.”]

Too many hotels and not enough housing. We do have homeless people [in Newport]. I think as a native Newporter, they care more about the tourists than they do about us.

The city?

The city, and the tourists too. It’s just expensive to live here.

Is it getting worse?

My rent goes up, my income doesn’t. … But I’m glad I got a roof over my head. I’m not really complaining, I’m just feeling for some people who don’t have that. I have a friend that just sold her house and she’s looking for a place, but every place has a waiting list. I pay almost $300 a month for Blue Cross. This is the richest country, we should have [affordable health care].

. Why do you think we don’t?

We’re probably spending too much money on—maybe we could bring down Congress’s salary. They’re not doing anything. Republicans right now, excuse my language, are sucking up to Donald Trump.

[Talking about mass shootings] What’s sad right now is you’re scared to go anywhere. I remember in ’77, they were talking about nuclear war–I don’t remember if we had to get under the desk.

Are people here afraid?

I don’t know anybody here that’s afraid, but I’m sure they are. This is happening because people are having problems—they have no job, they have no place to live. I worked for the government for twenty years in [CITY], and then on the base for a while, and when you work for the government you realize how much waste there is. Whatever money you have for supplies, you gotta spend it or spend less next year. So you’d see people paying $40 for a hammer.

[Candidates say] “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that,” but they can’t do what they wanna do. When I was younger, we picketed the Housing Authority … I talk to a lot of young people and they don’t vote. They don’t care.

Do you know why? Do you talk to them about it?

I do talk to them about it. I even have a couple of grandkids who don’t vote.

…People don’t believe in global warming. I watch Planet Earth and a lot of things like that. Look at the polar bears, they don’t have enough ice. … It concerns me, but I don’t worry about it. There’s nothing I can do. I think it’s a bigger problem than I can solve. I mean, I can talk to people about it, which I do. I’m at the senior center a lot, they see stuff on the news—well, they mostly watch soap operas.

*

I have a strong and long scientific background [that has given me] a sense of inevitability and the fact that humans don’t like to face change until we have to. It’s not anxiety anymore. I do have some [anxiety] that people get fixated on the weather, rather than on vectors in the viral sense, effects on monocrop systems—those things are more of a risk to my children.

… I’m a [MILITARY] officer and I try to lead people, and it’s so incredibly difficult to change someone’s mind through a direct, almost attacking approach… [It works better to be able] to say, “This is what I do.” Do as I do, not as I say … I wish it were facts and logic, but it’s not, and even feelings aren’t going to do it. Your values are indicated by what you’re going to do. But I understand the futility of it.

How does change work in [your branch of the military?]

We’re usually faced with evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change. Part of the problem with [this branch of the service] is that we’re so technologically tied—we can’t separate our intellects from the technology we use…

The Navy and the Department of Defense understand [climate change] as an existential threat to our economic systems and our health as a country. [The Armed Forces] fundamentally do not do politics. Our strategic goal is to maintain the freedom of shipping and communications. No sailors or soldiers are fighting for a political statement. … They’re massively invested [in preparation]–every Department of Defense housing facility is mandated to have solar. Upgrades to systems…We’ve got bases in places that are going to be wiped out really quick. [When something bad happens], we have all these things we’re gonna be able to do, but until the bad thing happens to the right people …

Who decides who the right people are?

[The military] is subjugated to the will of the people, which is the civilian authority. … The problem is too big for people to think they can do anything about.

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Alternate Histories: 10/15, 11/14

10/15/15

We’re maybe entering World War III. All the different hot spots of violence. Climate change changes environments, changes natural resources–it’s all connected.

*

11/14/15

The animals moved first, Z noticed: a red-bodied dragonfly clinging to his clothesline, nutria spotted in the river that divided the city, dead canvasback ducks at the midpoint of their migration when he drove out to pick up a secondhand desk. He pictured the soil under his feet crawling with bacterial motion, adaptation, life and death, migration, flight at a scale he could barely imagine. To them, all borders were open, all bodies were vehicles. He walked by the river and felt the wind splashing against his back, parting around him, pushed ahead of him, Z, the big thinker, the porous obstacle–the wind was changed by people and ducks and the surface of the dirty river, by temperatures of ice slowly shaling off thousands of miles away–that too changes the shape of the wind, the wind’s approach, the wind’s methods.

When at the COP21 convention in Paris participating nations agreed to the dissolution of borders, it was surprising how easily everyone adjusted to the idea, how little borders are felt in the body. Adjusting to the reality was harder: more people here, fewer there. Food, buildings and fields, no waiting, people streaming across, but how was “across” different now? On the other side of the river is the other side of the river. Maybe it’s a little higher or lower, but food was scarce everywhere. Places became “the place where the spiders come out of the ground” or “the place where we need to plug the leaking abandoned fuel tank” or “the place where the pileated woodpeckers used to nest” or “the place where Concepción and Beto were born, but it’s underwater now” or “the place where we’re borrowing the tools to dig the toilet for the Barzanis and the Ghaishes” or “the place where you leave the offerings.”

Near the foundations of the dismantled houses, next to the grave marker for the people who didn’t make it ashore, someone else had raised a grave marker for blue crabs. The water was predicted to reach it within the next four years. Z limped out there with two new neighbors to show them how to tend the seaweed seedlings and to learn from them how to tell the names of the dead to the wind in a way that makes it certain, almost certain, that they will cross the ocean.

Alternate Histories: 10/14, 10/14, 10/15, 10/31

10/14/15

Because of where I live, the disappearance of my home. I live in Wellfleet–we’re not on a FEMA flood zone, but we’re damn close.

10/14/15

I live in Gloucester, MA, right on the edge of a river and there’s the ocean on the other side. I realize the disappearance of the cove, being swallowed up by water. I can’t see it but I know it’s happening … It’s just a beautiful place. It’s just insane to think about.

10/15/15

I’m anxious about changing weather patterns and disappearing coastal wetlands. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and that’ll disappear if climate change continues.

*

10/31/15

As soon as they got home, G and V and O walked the bounds of the places they loved. O had to take a plane to do it, and then walk through water and muck, ankle-deep, knee-deep. He took a garbage bag with him, collecting plastic debris and crying as he went. V touched rocks at the waterline. G picked ticks from her skin after brushing past the beach grasses. Each year they do this now, walking the new line and the old line, noting the growing distances between them, learning their scabs and leaks, their places of surprising strength.

The ghosts of places replace places. At the hallow of the year, the old contours of the land and water hover over the new ones, almost solid, almost real, and that’s where people go. If they have to wade, the able-bodied carry on their backs anyone who can’t keep upright in the heavy surf. If they have to go in boats, they go in boats–more people who live on the coast are better at boats now, more intimate with the unruly muscle of the water, the big live animal that sometimes lashes out in pain.

When they reach the sites of their old homes, or their grandparents’ homes, or their great-great-grandparents’ homes, they let down the sounding lines. As the weights touch the bottom, the hills, the inlets, the insects, the clam flats, the bird tracks, the blades of grass become present to them, known to them. The air smells like soil as well as salt. They stay as long as the old land stays, rocking with the water. When it subsides, they leave their home to go home.

Alternate Histories by Other People: 10/15, 10/15

This is the second of two alternate histories from the Alliance of Artists’ Communities conference: the climate anxiety comes from one person, and the alternate history from another person, neither of whom are me. Here’s the first one.

10/15/15

All my favorite beaches are gonna disappear. I scuba-dive, and I can see that it’s already changing. The coral reefs are bleaching, the diversity is disappearing. I don’t see all the schools of fish that I used to see even ten years ago. And the other thing is in Colorado–the pine beetles, the dead trees.

*

10/15/15

While the building of islands in Dubai has seemed nothing but exploitative and blatantly, disrespectfully selfish, new technology for curbing erosion and inspiring reclamation of beaches and coral reefs is discovered. International relations are improved by this partnership to bring this new venture to other countries. Ecological restoration becomes lucrative and a driving force of industry–balance of resources the new paradigm.

Another Chance to Speak Against Raised Fares for Senior/Disabled RIPTA Passengers

There are meetings today in Providence and Bristol to offer feedback on RIPTA’s fare change proposals, which would increase fares for senior and disabled passengers. Please go today if you can. Living fairly means meeting people’s needs.

11am-12pm, The Commerce Center at The Providence Foundation, 30 Exchange Terrace, Providence

5:30-6:30pm, Burnside Building, 2nd Floor Meeting Room, 400 Hope St., Bristol

There were also meetings Tuesday in Woonsocket and Kingston; I’m sorry I didn’t post those here. Someone who attended one said:

I went to the RIPTA meeting at URI. I was one of about 5 people who showed up. There were more RIPTA people around than “voters.” We were asked to read panels with the current fares, panels listing 4 options for other ways to structure fares, and then to vote and comment. Each option would charge disabled and poor seniors something.

UPDATE: I went to the Providence meeting, which was as this person described, except that many senior and disabled riders were also present and did outnumber RIPTA employees/spokespeople. It’s possible to adapt the “voting”/comment structure to demand a plan that doesn’t increase fares for senior and disabled riders on fixed incomes, and that’s what I and a few other people did: we used comment forms to explain why we couldn’t endorse any plan that raised those fares. According to RIPTA, there will be public hearings about the proposed fare increase for senior/disabled rides (with opportunities to make statements on the record) in November, and those hearings will be announced at the RIPTA website, so check back there–and ask about the hearings if you don’t see them listed.

Alternate Histories: 5/27, 5/29, 9/11

5/27/15

Bringing my son out to swim, which he’s been wanting to do. He’s autistic, and I get anxious when I wanna bring him outta the water–I had a lot of problems with that today. And last night we had a little trouble sleeping ’cause we have no electricity, so no A/C. I had to take like a wet rag.

Any chance of getting it turned back on soon?

I’m hoping in the next six months. I work over here at the mall and they’re not giving me enough hours. Matter of fact, climate change messed up my hours at work. I work at [REDACTED] and no one wants to be inside playing games.

*

5/29/15

All this air conditioning–too much of it. We don’t condition ourselves to higher temperatures. I was on the coast in [KwaZulu] Natal, South Africa, when I was a teenager, and there was no air conditioning, full stop. One day I remember was 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 a.m. and there was 80% humidity, and we just went to school, we went home, nobody talked about the heat. And in the middle of Harare, in Zimbabwe, there’s a building that is cooled entirely through the use of air currents. We need to go and ask hot countries how they do it.

*

9/11/15

[These are two anxieties from two different days; here’s an explanation of why they’re together.]

P and F don’t really want different things, but each brings his own knowledge, his other needs–met and unmet–and the net of others’ needs and knowledge he inhabits to this need, this desire for cool air. They bring their presumptions and their prejudices, the blank spots in their understanding and experience. If F has never been in a building cooled on a hot day not by chemical means but by its very construction, he may not know that’s possible. If P has never spent a day caring for a  child when neither of them have slept, he may not understand that cool air is more than a luxury, and heat more than a test of fortitude.

(Remember, I don’t know that they don’t know–I’m guessing, from what they said and what they left out.)

F and P now draw on other kinds of knowledge, other stores and stories. Thickening a wall is relatively easy, lining it or filling its empty spaces, but they need help and someone’s sense of materials: what will hold up? won’t offgas? can be easily replaced? Moving a window is harder: they need someone versed in structure, weight and angles, a tool-user and a measurer, and someone to be aware of light and wind, not just this day, or that day, but on any day. Someone to build shutters from reclaimed wood. Someone to germinate a screen of plants and the dirt they need to grow in and the story of their care, plants that give in the summer their necessary shade and die back in the winter to admit the necessary light.

As they offer this knowledge, they also accept some. They learn how to understand and be understood by F’s son, building with him common languages and perceptions. They learn from each other, borrowing methods and tactics–motions as small as the way to hold a nail to drive it in, skills that this task doesn’t need but that emerge in conversation or while they’re resting. They adjust to a matrix of work that’s more intermittent and slower, less taxing, with different rewards. It’s strange, to not be paid, to not have money as a marker of what you take away and what you’ve given, and yet have enough to eat well, a place to sleep safely, the certain knowledge–in some cases, based already on experience–that if you need to receive what you’re currently giving, it will come to you.

 

Alternate Histories: 5/8, 5/15, 9/8

[These are two anxieties from two different days; here’s an explanation of why they’re together.]

5/8/15

I saw a thing in the paper about how a sea level rise of 3 feet is going to destroy the marshes and salt ponds, down in South County, that are breeding grounds for lots of fish and birds–plovers and stuff like that.

*

5/15/15

The city–pollution. Buildings, cars, power plants. People just like to litter, it’s just fun to them. Like when I was younger and I did litter, I felt bad about it. Like why would you do that.

What do you think would make people change that, those habits?

More influence. More influences. Maybe through music–I’m a musician, reggae, hip-hop, percussion. Inspirational vibes and dancing. If it’s there, more broadcasting of it, something in there for children–the inspiration needs to be there. Rhode Island is very depressing, people hate it. It’s depressing, it’s boring, there’s nothing to do. All it really is, is an ocean, which, sure, if you have money.

*

9/8/15

The next day, I’m going to ask you to imagine, C listened to D and D listened to C. They saw that each other had said these things; they knew this much, at least, of what each other wanted.

The people living near the edge of the water broke their houses down to make room for some of the water–to make paths for it, to build rising bridges and floating marshes. D’s music gave shape to their work; he toured from site to site, and so did other musicians and bands (not everyone loves reggae, or early-’90s rock, or bachata). Back in the cities and inland towns, some couples in houses too big for them moved in with friends, opening their houses to people from the edge of the water, or people from over the water. Some, to preserve their ability to be alone, repaired houses that had stood empty. There was time to do all of this, time grouped and divided by music and silence.

Twenty-nine years later, the ocean is where music is, at certain times of day: a parade winding like a slow current, a circle pulsing around a performer like the devouring mouth of a starfish, a skein of song nourishing a difficult task. You take care of it because it takes care of you, or you take care of it because it’s where the music is, where the bus-boats fueled by algae stop to drop off people from the city, where the far-traveling boats still dock or rest from time to time. It’s on the platforms that sink and hover with the tide and that everyone works together to draw in or anchor when the storms get bad.

At other times of day, the music drops. It doesn’t stop completely–air doesn’t, water doesn’t–but ebbs to make room for terns and osprey to fish, sandpipers to stab for worms, the ears to recover their quiet. Some people learn the music, or the silence, because of the animals. Some people learn the changes of tide, the bugs, the tiny hungers, because of the silence, or the music.

Sometimes, the music turns somber. There are no more plovers. There are no more moon snails. Your home, your home, the place that you loved, the place where you learned to love, is no more, has become something else–you will never see it again, never. It will never again surround you, as this music does, as these people and other creatures do–known to you only so far, so much–as this air does, as this water does.

Alternate Histories: 7/22, 8/4

[This is the third in a three-part sequence about, loosely, faith and practice. The first is here; the second is here; another, by Janaya Kizzie, is here.]

722/15

The indigenous concept of Mother Earth [has been] Disneyfied and trivialized, but it’s an important idea: the earth as a mother that feeds us, that gives us what we need. We need a change of consciousness that honors these ideas, these relationships. When I talk about this with my students, I can tell that they yearn for it, but they graduate and they’re in debt, they have to make compromises, and I cry for them.

*

8/4/15

When the teaching semester started again, A rented a biodiesel van and drove his students out to the Fisherville Pond Dam on the Blackstone River. Together, they watched and listened with skepticism turning to awe as the biologists, ecologists, chemists and engineers–some their own age–explained how the canal restorers work. One of A’s students squatted down and touched the tip of one deep-brown finger to the skin of the water. She looked a question at their guide, who nodded reassuringly; she dipped her finger, put it in her mouth, and started to cry.

The point, A said to his students on the way back to town, is not that you guys all need to drop what you’re doing and learn how to make these specific things. The point is that this is a form of living intimately and reverently, the way we were talking about in class. The people who are making these things are giving back to the earth that made them…

… And they’re getting paid, said A’s surliest student.

And they’re getting paid. Which means–we talked about what that means–

That society recognizes the value of what they’re doing, said A’s most eager student.

A smiled at her. We are society, he said. What nourishes the earth nourishes us, because we get all our nourishment from the earth. When your boss says he’s standing on his own two feet, he’s ignoring the fact that he’s standing on the earth, breathing in what the trees breathe out, and that his feet are made out of things the earth gave him.

But how can we act that out? demanded a student who was usually quiet. I mean it sounds really good, but.

How do you all think? A asked. Let’s write, and then we’ll pool our ideas and write a little more.

My mom always say she should get paid for raising us. Everybody say welfare is bad but isn’t that what that is? Except it should be more.

I want to be a nutritionist because helping more people be healthy is a public service.

You should get money if you DONT pollute not if you do.

My grandmothers gave me a bath in the river when I was born, in Liberia, wrote the student who’d sipped clean water off her fingertip. I want to give my grandchildren a bath in the river when they are born, here. I want them to be born.

A and his students shaped these writings into letters and sent them where they thought they’d be most relevant: to Blue Cross Blue Shield, to the Social Security office, to National Grid, to the Rhode Island Division of Agriculture, to Hasbro …

Think of an animal or a plant as a moment of great and temporary good luck, something that allows other things to help it build itself and allows other things to help it destroy itself. First we grow; we burgeon. And then, unless someone interrupts our arc with violent contempt, we begin to dismantle ourselves and to be dismantled. Why don’t we recognize that one is as beautiful as the other? Why shouldn’t a business do it as well as a body, when it reaches the turn of its natural life? Nothing else even tries to grow forever.

During the seven years that followed, the people and plants and animals whose lives were touched by these companies, and who had helped these companies grow, helped to take them apart–not violently, but as part of their arc. They used their assets to tide people over–the healers, the growers, the restorers–as they worked out ways to give and take in balance and to move away from money, toward honor and sustenance, as rewards for the business of living.

The dismantlers knew in their own ways of knowing things that they too were being disassembled and disarmed piece by piece, as well as nourished, by other living creatures they needed but could not see, by the cells of their own bodies, by time, in order to become a field for more and different people and plants and animals and ideas and possibilities to grow.

Alternate Histories: 7/15, 7/17

7/15/15

Honeybees. The wild honeybee population this year is really small. We lost a couple hives at City Farm. And without bees, without pollinators–

Are there things people can do to preserve their hives? I know some people say it’s a pesticide and some people say its like a mite, a parasite.

Yeah, I’ve heard both of those things too, but no one really knows.

*

7/17/15

The next day, T borrowed one of the City Farm trucks and drove out to Chase Farm Park. He walked up the steep hill, put a palm on the plane tree trunk so huge he couldn’t get his arms all the way around it. This is a living being, he thought. He walked carefully in the mown grasses and clover and plantain, detouring for the occasional sprig of poison ivy, and noting the honeybees and sweat bees and cellophane bees feeding there; noting, too, the patinaed backs of defoliating Japanese beetles. He breathed in the sweet air.

T went home and sent a group text to farm volunteers, friends, siblings, and his two neighbors with large, intimidating-looking pit bulls. For the next three weeks, as quietly as possible, in darkness and daylight, they tore down houses burned out by neglect or foreclosed on by damp, and used their boards and pipes to make fences around the lots. KEEP OUT, the younger volunteers spraypainted on the quilts of wood scraps and wire. DANGER. UNSAFE. Cops did their part by ignoring the changes. Neighbors did theirs by casually walking past with Hippo and Olaf, whose heavy feet and swinging jowls made an additional barrier. BEWARE OF DOG, the kids spraypainted.

Within the walls, they first planted sunflowers and mustard greens and blue sheep fescue and bladder campion, to draw up lead and other heavy metals in the soil. At this stage, they chased the bees away rather than let them feed, taking turns walking up and down the rows, smelling hot greenery around them with whiffs of garbage and dryer sheets from over the fence, maybe smoking a blunt to keep away boredom and mosquitoes, picking beetles off the leaves and drowning them in the rain barrels. It wasn’t until the third summer that they planted half phytoremediating plants and half broadleaf woodland plants that bees and butterflies like: clover, yarrow, pleurisy flower, bee balm, lobelia and sage, with young swamp maples in each lot’s lowest corner. The scent of the gardens began to rise above the walls. People changed their routes home from work, booty calls and the store in order to walk past them.

The practice spread to North Providence and to Silver Lake, both of which had their share of empty lots and orphaned buildings. As long-distance travel became less common and less reliable, people began to consolidate where they were living; many of the houses thus vacated went to people displaced by flooding or people who hadn’t had a home for a long time, but some of them were in bad enough shape that it wouldn’t have been fair to ask anyone to live in them. The fences were lined with PVC tubes for carpenter bees and hanging gardens for food plants; lots with poor drainage and a history of mold problems held skunk cabbage, for fly pollinators, and alders, which like to grow with their feet wet.

In the 15th or so year, when enough had changed that who owned these lots, who had a right to them, was the last of anyone’s worries, the walls came down, or went skeletal. The gardeners staggered plantings of windbreak saplings according to predicted changes in temperature: willow, catalpa, hardy banana. Some of the trees overshot their growth in the carbon-thicker air, but others survived and lived well in a living net of flies and wasps and moths and butterflies and bees.