Revillaging the city

The school garden just keeps on giving.

At our August work bee this week, we all marvelled at the fact that not only have we grown an amazing amount of produce and people have remained dedicated to watering and tending the garden, it’s been relatively untouched by vandalism (cross fingers, knock on wood).

I think it’s partly thanks to the cute sign the kids made, but mostly a tribute to all the work everyone has put into it and the fact that the community of dog walkers and daycare parents and school parents and teenagers who walk by everyday see us there,  talk to us and feel part of what we’re creating.

It makes me think about what a wise friend of mine, the storyteller Dan Yashinsky, said to me the other day about the importance of “revillaging the city.” He talked about how we need to create villages within our cities so that we can connect to one another, care for one another and ensure the weakest are not left behind.

It’s in stark contrast to the cover story in our city magazine, Toronto Life, this month about people fleeing the city for the suburbs because they can’t find community here. “Screw Jane Jacobs.  We’re outta here,” the headline shouts.

While I’m not really interested in questioning someone’s family decision to leave the city—people have been coming and going from city to country for generations, it’s the way things go—it seems to me as if the author was expecting community to rise out of nothing. The reality is, especially in big cities, we have to build our communities, create our villages. Sometimes it takes a huge amount of work and sometimes it’s easy. There are invariably setbacks and disappointments, but the project is long term. And whether it’s a school garden or a farmers’ market or a park dinner or a community food centre or a free reading program for low-income kids, the rewards of participating in this revillaging can be both bountiful and astonishing.


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