Years ago, I looked for a blog dedicated to Nashville nature observations, so I could compare notes and learn and share and get a grasp on the sliding seasons. I couldn’t find one, so I started “Look Around: Nearby Nature,” which proved too much to say, and so became “Sidewalk Nature.”
Sidewalks are a big deal in Nashville. Most people don’t have them. I do, because I live in an old streetcar suburb with a walkable grid. So I walk and walk, every day, rain or shine, year ’round. I see things. I hear and smell and pocket and sometimes taste things. I notice seasonal changes and patterns.
I see what neighbors do with their lawns, which is another kind of pattern.
Urban nature is nature that is already here. We don’t have to go somewhere else to find nature, and to connect with it. And when we connect with it, maybe we can help.
Nature needs help. Habitat loss is the #1 reason over 1/4 of all birds have disappeared since I was in Kindergarten, and the reason for our Insect Apocalypse. Our yards and neighborhoods are critical habitat now, can you believe it? If more people believe it, maybe we can tweak a few standard practices to be more sustainable? Fewer pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers. Less concrete. More green space. Fewer all-night security lights, fewer year-round yard sprinklers. Many, many more native plants.
But the first step is to Look Around.
Clues on the sidewalk can teach you Where and When you are.
Here, for example, are some clues for September:
-Hemlock cones sliding to the storm drain.
-Orion overhead before dawn.
-Passionfruit on the Interstate bridge.
-Black oak acorns, nipped and thrown away by squirrels.
-Chinkapin oak acorns, nipped and stored by squirrels.
-Black walnuts downhill.
-Osage orange fruit downhill.
-Hackberry drupes almost ripe.
-September elm pollen.
-Goldfinches twisting seeds from sunflowers.
-Carpenter bees dying on passionflowers.
-Skippers on Black-eyed Susans.
What do you see on your sidewalk, in your yard right now?
About the author:
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world. Her essays have appeared in Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals.
She writes about everyday natural wonders amid everyday habitat loss at SidewalkNature.com and @Jo_Brichetto on Instagram. Her current project is an urban nature almanac-memoir called Paradise in a Parking Lot.