As a Pagan and a farm kid living in the city, I am constantly on the hunt for wild, public spaces close to where I live.
The city is my home right now because that’s where my job is. My apartment is two blocks from my office allowing me to live a more simple life and forgo owning a car and such. My logical mind loves this solution. My spirit yearns for a place in the country to call my own. So, at each new apartment I live in a talk long walks and bike rides to find the best hidden, wild, but open to the public places. Madison is home to a great many parks, many who offer the touches of “wild” that I’m after.
A wild space in the city is not the same as a rocky forest or open wildflower meadow that you might find near a farm. In the city wild spaces are compact and vigorous. They are the places that Mother Nature has fought to be seen and heard along the cracks of concrete and between towering buildings. Wildlife make the spaces their homes. People search out these spaces and hide among the bushes and trees to find their own private place. They are pockets of cool sanctuary where one’s spirit can unabashedly run free without worrying about the drone of traffic or who can see you.
But surely any park would do, right? WRONG! A park is filled with cut grass and trees planted oh so carefully. They have walking paths of concrete not of earth. People jog or bike through, but rarely take moments to site and contemplate our place in the world. A designed park is a wonderful and critical space in the city, but they do not provide the same wonder that a wild place does.
As I live right downtown the closest wild space to me is the shoreline of Lake Monona in the Olin Park. Now this space is technically a park. But the wild has been let in and allowed to grow almost entirely as it sees fit. There are many pockets that allow someone to site and imagine or think. It is a hidden space that offers privacy not found in a typical park. It has become a sanctuary critical to my mental well being. I go to this space regularly to watch the changing of the seasons and reconnect with Divinity in the most natural space offered to me in the city. And it might possibly be under development.
It’s being called the Nolen Centennial Project. Recently, it received a boost from the Mayor. On one hand I can see how this project would appeal to a great many people. As far as park plans go, it’s ok. I just resent the space that I love being called underutilized. Wild is never underutilized. Cities don’t need everything covered in official walking paths and artwork in order for spaces to be beautiful and important. The need for jobs and economic development does not create an automatic trump card for all decisions.
Let’s keep a little Wild in the city, please.