After living in New York City for years, I started to feel like I was living in a box. Like I was some pet hamster running from one box to another, occasionally escaping to Central Park for a few moments before I was caught and placed back inside.
I mean, I do love New York City. I like its weirdness and efficiency. I like how you sometimes walk past a person with 14 dogs strapped to their body, or that time I saw a man walking his 2 turtles on leashes in Central Park. The time a man walked into this pub with his dog, and the dog hopped up on a stool and they stared at each other while he drank a beer. I like looking around the subway car and seeing the whole world… and I surprisingly really enjoy the smallness of the living spaces. But at some point over the past two years, I just really missed being near nature. It’s something I need to be happy, something I grew up with. So I decided to try and make some changes to my hamster lifestyle.
At first, I bought this window bird feeder that I had wanted forever. It had a 2-way mirror so you could see the birds up close, within your home. I loved it. I placed it in my mattress-sized bedroom, at the foot of my bed, overlooking a giant maple tree that was always full of birds. Every morning I would wake up to the sound of mourning doves cooing, literally at my feet. But over time, as many people warned me, it became a mess. Mourning doves constantly fighting with each other over food. And the last straw was when I woke up at 3am to the sound of two mice digging through the leftover seeds, at the foot of my bed. No.
During that time, I had also decided to move my work out of my tiny apartment. I had been working from home for the past 7 years and just needed to get out. I spent forever searching for a studio; the key being, it needed to have outdoor space. A year later, I got lucky and found it.
I moved into the studio space in November 2017. I knew once Spring came I was going to turn that space into my personal jungle, or at least try. I’ve killed my fair share of house plants.
So when April came around, I got to work and started building this little garden.
One of the most incredible things is placing a seed in some soil and watching it grow into a plant. It’s exciting! I grew dahlias the size of my face! Strawberries, honeysuckle, jasmine, petunias, forget-me-nots, anemones, etc. I literally bought a bunch of bulbs, seeds, and small plants and threw them out there and watched them grow. I honestly didn’t really know what I was doing. I did a little googling, and went for it. I probably do most things that way. But, watching plants grow really just feels like magic. When I was little, we had chickens, and I had that same feeling the day I woke up to 6 new baby chicks that our hen had just hatched. It kind of all feels like a dream.
As soon as I began my tiny garden, I can’t tell you how happy it made me. It inspired me and crept into my work. It gave me more of a routine. Every morning I would go to my studio and check each plant and water them. It was fascinating to watch them grow, and how quickly things changed. Half the time I didn’t even know what I had planted where, so it was a nice surprise to see what sort of flower bloomed from each plant. Just being out there with the plants felt nice.
What made it even better is that creatures started showing up. This place, in the middle of Manhattan, 5 stories high… I started to see Katydids, ladybugs, snails, slugs, lacewings, caterpillars, birds, bees, wasps, butterflies, ants, etc. It was like this whole universe showed up all because of the plants. My secret garden.
As they say, one thing leads to another, and that small garden led me to my snails. It has been so refreshing. I miss the plants now that it is winter, and I can’t wait to bring them to life again soon…