The universe in a sidewalk crack

Emma Marris (who, full disclosure, blurbed my book), has begun working on something quietly profound here. It has to do with kids, and the way they see the world. As Emma puts it,

This blog is inspired by my daughter’s ever expanding collection of natural specimens, a part of which you see here. She relates to nature by picking it up and asking me to carry it. As a result, I have begun really looking at and thinking about everyday nature in our backyard, on the street, and on our travels. This is exactly what I prescribed in my 2011 book, Rambunctious Garden. Nature isn’t the epic stuff you see on Planet Earth documentaries, I said. Nature is all around us, in the city, on the highway median. And now, all over my house.

My daughter is a lot younger than Emma’s – just barely walking. And when she does walk it’s frustrating: She’s forever veering off course, or bending down to pick at something in the crack in the sidewalk. But when I allow her to draw my attention to those sidewalk cracks, I’m often surprised at what I find there: Tiny flowers, even tinier snails, dead leaves (but then, where do those leaves come from? What do they signify?)

The world turns grey and boring if every tree simply registers as “tree” and before you pass it by. But every tree, every crack in the sidewalk, contains boggling unsolved mysteries. Consider Emma’s shell, above. The tendency of a grown up is to say, “that’s pretty, a robin’s egg.” It takes a child (or a scientist, interestingly) to ask, “why is it blue?” And the answer? Nobody knows. Actually, we have no idea why any bird goes to the trouble of coloring its eggs. Some birds lay down successive layers of color, streaking their eggs with color glands as they pass through the oviduct. Hypotheses: It could camouflage the egg (but blue?), or it could help the parents tell which eggs are theirs and root out brood parasites. But again, it’s a mystery. Think the age of Romantic discovery is over? That all the white patches on the map have been filled in? Unexplored territory, right there, in the sidewalk cracks.

2 thoughts on “The universe in a sidewalk crack

  1. Have you read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder?