Man’s Habitat – Finding Nature in New York City

I live on the corner of Lexington and 29th, a real human habitat. The streets smell like curry and tofu, the churches hold alcoholics anonymous meetings and sell used clothing out of their basements. Preschool teachers lead rows of small children, in mini Uggs, faces of dewy eyes and candy stained cheeks, by loops on rope.

If you walk up the Avenues on 28th towards Seventh Avenue, you find a habitat within a habitat, the Chelsea flower district, a habitat of plants that is distinctly human. Early in the morning the plants are lined up on the sidewalk, catching the moisture from the still wet air as it condensates off of the sidewalks under the morning sun. It seems like a botanical wonderland, green and lush, but it is no Eden. The flower district is sustained with no good intention other than business. The wedding planners, florists, and hotel staff, choose out the plants that suit their needs. With urgency they load bundles of green into trucks and hand the shop-owners the other green. I like that about it, it seems more natural in a way, innate to this human habitat. Natural in the sense that there are no values or ethics imposed on it, but rather it is perpetuated by the same system the rest of this cinderblock city runs on.

At the beginning of my senior year, I went to the Chelsea flower district and I bought a cactus plant to prop on my windowsill. It has four smooth green sides, and a round orange bulb that sits lopsided on its base. I chose the cactus because of its survival skills. I’m gone long weekends. I can hardly remember to drink water in between cups of coffee and I can’t imagine I would adequately water a gardenia or oleander plant. I won’t train an orchid, or measure its sunlight. But, I can live with a cactus, and its easy ways.

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