Urban Grit

1 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
4 / 5
5 / 5

For over a year now I have been commuting into Washington D.C. every day to work. This can be something of an arduous journey. Up until recently, it included driving a half-hour out of the way for childcare; catching a commuter bus; spending anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes on the bus, depending on traffic; and a short metro ride ? three stops ? to my ultimate destination, which is still at least a half mile from me at that point. At the end of the day, I did the same thing in reverse. It’s exhausting, but that isn’t the worst part. The worst part of it all, up until recently, has been the sense of disconnection from my life: the absence from home, the lack of time to devote to domestic concerns like my garden, the absence of exercise and spiritually restorative, outdoor time.

A few things have changed. My daughter started a new school a few weeks ago, so my morning childcare commute has dropped from an hour a day to about 15 minutes. I have put that extra time to good use. Rather than taking the metro back and forth from the bus stop every weekday, I have started walking. Lest you think that it’s gritty city walking ? gritty in the bad way, with nothing to see but concrete and congestion ? it’s not. As it turns out, I have several opportunities every day to walk through gardens. What I mean by gardens: food gardens. There are several different places between L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station where I have found food growing, and today I thought I would share them with you.

Independence Community Garden

Independence Community Garden is located on a triangular-shaped piece of land directly across from the Air and Space Museum. It contains 38 plots of various shapes and sizes, and with a little research, I found that there is a 2-3 year waiting list to get a plot. It’s varied and rather unkempt, which is something that I kind of like in a garden. Among other things I have found growing here are squash, chard, beans, and Brussels sprouts. Here’s a peek.

My research also turned up some bad news: on September 21, 2006, the site was officially approved as the future site of the Eisenhower Memorial. This surprising and super-cool garden is due to be paved over at some point in the future. What a shame.

Native Landscape at the National Museum of the American Indian

This museum, quite fittingly, has extended its exhibit beyond its curved, yellow walls to give visitors a glimpse of the way the land looked before the Europeans moved in. It is the work of EDAW, Inc. in collaboration with ethnobotanist Donna House (Navajo/Oneida) on the landscape design, and plant selection and design team members Johnpaul Jones, FAIA, (Choctaw/Cherokee) of Jones & Jones and Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi). You can read the official description of the garden here. The extent of what I want to say about it is this: There be food there.

S.M.R. Saia is the author of the children’s books Little Ant and the Butterfly and Little Ant Goes to a Picnic, as well as a book of humorous gardening essays titled Confessions of a Vegetable Lover: Scandalous Stories of Love, Lust, and Betrayal in a Backyard Garden.