[Adela Ramos, professor of English literature and writing at PLUteaches a WRIT 101 Course. In part of the second unit of this course, students explore Parkland to find its wilderness, its beauty, its parks. Joel Zylstra and the professor will be collaborating as part of this unit to show students Parkland and invite them to think of it as their community, one that they have to care for. The final project, titled “Where are the parks in PARKland?” asksed that students write a piece on their favorite nature spot in Parkland, a place where the neighborhood and nature commingle, (using a wonderful text from Seattle-based writer, Lyanda Lynn Haupt) in a way that invites their audience to find these spots and take care of them. Several of these student stories will be featured over time .]
Anthony Aguilar, FYEP 101: Wilds of Parkland
The Lone Tree
There is a tree, I know, that is like the tree from The Giving Tree By Shel Sliverstein. I like to think of this tree having a young boy grow up with it and this tree caring for the boy. Right now the tree is in the stage where the boy takes the branches to make a house because this tree doesn’t have a lot of branches that are low to the ground, maybe because they got in the way of cars or maybe a boy did come to take them. If only there was a way to give back and provide for the tree.
There is a place that is down Garfield St., right outside the steps of Harstad, along the pathway, and across Park Ave. in the church parking lot. In that parking lot, the cement is cracked and the paint lines are worn down, there is a large, solo pine tree that stands majestically like the clock tower at PLU. It is a towering home for birds, squirrels and maybe a raccoon or two, that looks over the concrete sea where cars, like large, metal fish visit. This tree is unique from a lot of other trees because if you think of a tree, maybe it is just myself, but people tend to imagine a tall, firm tree that stands on a hill surrounded by a meadow. This tree on the other hand, is in the middle of the parking lot and the closest grass is on the front lawn of Harstad Hall nearly 500 feet away.
PLU commuters and visitors of the church and school always complain about the tree, saying it is always in the way or it is destroying the concrete. While this might be true, I have noticed that the tree holds refuge for different species and brings resources to many others. It bring shelter to birds like crows and chickadees, it provides food for the grey squirrels, and gives shade to the cars below so that they don’t overheat on a hot summer day. I compare this parking lot, a great deal to Parkland, Washington.
Parkland, Washington has been my home for the last few months as I study at Pacific Lutheran University. Amanda Walls, a student in our writing class, found that there are around 35,000 people who reside in Parkland, 3,500 of who attend PLU. The campus of PLU is not a very large compared to other universities like Washington State University or Seattle University, but compared to a city like Parkland it is pretty massive. Many students complain about Parkland, saying it’s not a nice neighborhood or there is no beauty because of the lack of parks or wilderness. I disagree, because you can always find beauty in the not greenest of places. Now you may be asking, how does a parking lot with a tree in it, and Parkland relate? Think of it this way. PLU has about 10% of the population of Parkland and this tree takes up about 10% of the lot. Think of the Tree as parklands wild places, and the Lot as the suburban development. There is much more suburbs and wild places.
There is a word referred to in Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s book, Crow Planet, called “zoöpolis.” It is defined as “[…] an overlap of human and animal geographies” (166). Currently we are living in a zoöpolis with other species and coexisting with them. “Most often, a zoöpolis is formed where humans build their homes on land that historically has belonged to nonhumans,” (166). We have taken this tree away from it’s home, and made it our own. That lot didn’t use to be there because it used to be a field where animals could run free and live. Humans built a parking lot and took that field and built homes, a church, and even the university I now attend. The tree in that parking lot is a zoöpolis in a way. We use it for shade and animals use it for food and shelter. What if the tree was gone? There would be one less “zoöpolis” in that lot because we wouldn’t be sharing the land anymore with animals and nature, it would just be humans.
If this tree didn’t exist, the homes wouldn’t be there and the recourses it brings wouldn’t be present. It also wouldn’t give the parking lot character. Personally this is a huge thing because many parking lots are just flat field of nothing. This tree, this tall standing beauty gives this boring concrete slab character: the tree gives it character and something pretty to stare at as you wait to pick up a friend, or waiting for class to start. It caught my eye on a walk one day. Without this one tree all of those things I mentioned wouldn’t be.
Back in my hometown, at my home church, our parking lot was used for many different activities. It was home to Vacation Bible School games, Church picnics on nice days, and also a meeting ground for a lot of groups around the area. In that parking lot, we had small islands of grass with trees in them, and garden beds of flowers. It really gave the lot some character. I believe we can make the parking lot across the street from Harstad into a zoöpolis for PLU students, the community and animals. We can use the lot for activities like concerts, church outside on a bright sunny Sunday morning, or even a drive-in movie night, like my church use to do. You could even go out there and lean up against the tree and read a book or write in your journal as the birds sing.
Those are just some ways we can team up with this tree and give this old, pavement-cracked lot some life. I highly suggest going over and trying to find the beauty in this tree, or in general going out and looking at many different places were you can see zoöpolis’ and where people and animals are coexisting. All you have to do is take some time and find it, believe me it’s out there. I found a parking lot with a tree that has potential of being a zoöpolis, what can you find?