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Naturalist in the City

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Created: January 10, 2002
Latest Update: January 14, 2002

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Sagebrush and Capuccino:
Confessions of an LA Naturalist

by David Wicinas

Teaching and Review Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan Takata.
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, January 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Story of a city lover who recognizes all the beautiful spots of the city and is discouraged as the little bits of greenery are wiped out one by one. He's determined to see as many as he can before they go. Neat concept of finding nature in the midst of the city. For a lot of us who grew up in cities, these bits of greenery shape our memories, and we're more at ease in them than in the great outdoors.

I was a little disappointed that the whole orientation seems to be the loss of nature as it was once found in bits and pieces of the city. I would have liked to see a naturalist's point of view to bringing little bits of nature back into the city. I'm so tired of manicured lawns that remind me of plastic flowers in a diner. I'd like to see more use of tall grasses and the mystery of shrubs left to seek their own shape. To this day I remember the "four o'clocks" on the poor streets of New Orleans. The flowers didn't open until four o'clock in the afternoon, which is how they got their popular name. Being a city girl, I don't know their real name.

Those little bright pink and red flowers still provide the cheerful decor for my memories of swings on front porches and children leaping up stairs for hide and seek. They didn't have the dignity of a "garden," but they were an integral part of the beauty, if you just knew where to look.

Unlike my nostalgia that is for the discovery of bits of wonder wherever I looked in the city, David Wicinas exudes frustration over the privatization of bits of land that used to be open to the public and uncanny determination to see it all while he can. I understand that response. But for me, the progression of the city means that the inventiveness of children will produce new bits of wonder, for nature has a way of winning out in the long run, at least with children.