We really weren’t trying to upset anyone. Honest. We just wanted vine-ripened tomatoes, picked fresh (Think of them in a salad, with a bit of basil!). We had the pots, the soil, the seeds, a sunny parking spot, and no car. Bringing the little plants downstairs from our apartment seemed like an excellent plan...until I felt the wrath of an infuriated neighbour. “Gardening encourages conversations! I don’t want extra noise outside my window!”
At first, I was stunned. I was still dreaming of salads, unaware of the repercussions of our gardening activities. When our neighbour learned that everyone else in the building was happy to let us keep mucking about in the dirt, she moved out. In the years since, however, I’ve realized that she was right about gardening in shared spaces: it does spark conversation. Every time I’m out digging, someone stops to chat. And I love it.
Soon after our tomatoes ripened, a friend referred to our gardening as our adventures in place-making. I’d never heard of the international movement to personalize outdoor spaces and draw people together, but I loved the idea. The more I read, the more excited I got, and as a children’s author, I wondered if anyone had written about this for kids (Kids are natural place-makers, right? Think tree forts, lemonade stands, and sidewalk chalk art). Finding nothing on the topic, I set to work. I contacted people here in Victoria and around the world—Australians who’d built skateboard ramps on their blocks, Haligonians who’d painted road murals, and Victorians who’d set up communal chicken coops. The response was electric. Folks offered me everything from inspiring stories, to photos, to painting advice for our neighbourhood’s upcoming public art project.
Home Sweet Neighborhood: Transforming Cities One Block at a Time was released by Orca Book Publishers in March 2019. It’s a celebration of kids and adults around the world having fun, building community, and creating positive change, starting right where they live. It’s about simplicity and the power of togetherness, and the book is available at local bookstores or through the Orca Book Publishers Ltd.