Abandoned Spaces, Farming, Gardening, Urban Agriculture

Victory Gardens, and Alternative Uses for the Disused Lot

A typical block in central Baltimore.

Many times, when we view an abandoned space in an otherwise populated area, our automatic reaction is to mourn the loss of its use value — here is a house that’s been allowed to decay instead of provide shelter, here is a piece of land which could be productive, a lawn, a park, a homesite, but is instead overtaken by weeds. “What a waste!” we think. In large cities that have suffered population loss after deindustrialization, places like Baltimore and Philadelphia, entire neighborhoods are mottled with abandoned spaces, lost usefulness. Even the house cats are feral.

One common desire we have is to want to rehab and reclaim — undo the harm nature or other humans have done and bring the space back into perfect human usefulness. This idea has been slickly packaged and sold to us in so many iterations of the home renovation show. As the tide of exodus of the middle class from cities turns and metro populations begin to swell again, land values increase, old homes are renovated and new homes are built in old spaces. In the early stages of redevelopment, as the wealth of neighborhoods increases along with the expectations of the residents, the “eyesore” of the abandoned lot is no longer tolerated. But as changes begin to materialize, before vacant land gives rise to condominiums, businesses, and more cultivated permanent uses, one of our favorite initial practices is to transform it more moderately. Say, into a community garden.

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Abandoned Spaces, Fiction, Mythology

The Wild Lot in Schulz’s Pan

With our early posts on Wild Lot, we thought we could attempt to illustrate our personal interest in the topics we hope to explore on this blog, namely, the role natural setting plays in forming and inspiring creative writers, and how our favorite authors, in recognition that we, through our fragile civilization, are only one small and superficial step removed from being wild ourselves, often use nature as an apt symbol for humanity. So, in the spirit of this, my first post will be a bit autobiographical…


credit: wikipedia

credit: wikipedia

I was in a creative writing class my first semester at the University of Pittsburgh, early 2000s. We each had to bring in a short story that was important to us as fledgling writers. I don’t remember what I brought in. But one student (Jared, I think?) brought in a photocopied excerpt of Polish author, Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles/Cinnamon Shops entitled “Pan.”

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Fiction, Mythology, The Sublime

Hear us, great Pan!: Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia, and Picnic at Hanging Rock

When I first saw Peter Weir’s  Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), I must have been somewhere between 17 and 21 years old, living in rural Southwest Ohio, where I was born and raised and which was, like Weir’s 1900 south Australia, an ostensibly free yet inwardly straightjacketed province. I recall being excited by the subtext that Sara’s affection for Miranda, and then Mademoiselle de Poitier’s appreciation of Miranda’s beauty, suggested, not to mention the visuals of the key scenes that I get into here shortly. Above this visceral impact, though, something haunting embedded in the film has made me ever since consider Hanging Rock part of my personal worldview, across multiple phases of my life, despite having seen it only once or twice.

The film is subversive, defiant, and wild, which is probably why I like it, and what makes it even more appealing to me now is that the veinery circulating these impressions is the god Pan (Catania).

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