There’s a stretch of land in our town that used to hold buildings related to the steel industry (and more). The buildings have been gone for more than a decade now. From the days of the steel mill, the land is poisoned with lead, arsenic, and other substances.

7 acres of this land is currently being discussed as the site of a new ‘development’ of retail and office buildings, parking garage, new road, etc.

If you’re local, you probably know the land I am talking about. You may have talked to me about it, yourself. I’ve been a part of many conversations about this ‘development’ proposal. 30 people came and talked about it on one evening in particular.

But I realize I may have been unclear. I realize just about everyone seems to think I am on their side in this.

I’m not. I’m not on any of the sides that I’ve heard spoken in human words.


I can only say that I am on the side of the bees collecting pollen from the plants growing with roots stretching into this land.

I am on the side of the wild rabbit I saw on my first visit to this land. I’m on the side of all that rabbit’s offspring, unseen.

I’m on the side of the trees that have grown upward and the thickets that have woven themselves into tangled, shadowy homes.

I am on the side of the birds and deer finding places to live there. I’m on the side of the multitudes of insects and earthworms living, crawling, digging, flying.

I’m on the side of the soil, dirt, earth, land that has been poisoned again and again by generations of humans. Somehow life keeps taking root there.


I am on the side of wineberries, burdock, clover, and garlic mustard – edible even for humans, except that they grow in poisoned ground.

I’m on the side of all the life that breathes and grows and lives and dies outside of human observance.

All photos in this post have been taken on this particular plot of land. This is land that has been called a “blight” by the people wanting to turn into a stretch of pavement. We have been told this is not “green space,” as you might think, but rather “brown” and therefore a waste.

Yes, brown is one of the colors you’ll find here if you have the eyes to see anything. Brown, green, purple, red, orange, yellow, pink, silver…


Yes, brown is also present here in the sense of “brownfield.” This land has been abused and is poisoned.

I am on the side of healing the land for the sake of healing the land.

I am on the side of bio- and phytoremediation, re-introducing native plants, allowing for even more wildness to thrive.

I am on the side of valuing something more than commerce, of investing in life for the sake of life, of respecting the right of non-human beings to have homes and food and beauty.

Look at each photo in this post and understand it’s a tiny, tiny glimpse of a much larger whole.

Next, imagine everything shown here replaced with pavement.

Which side are you on?

I can only say that I am on the side of the bees collecting pollen from the plants growing with roots stretching into this land.

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