I sold my car a few years ago, opting to walk and bike more. While I still have access to my wife’s car, she uses it for work, which means that I’m “carless” throughout much of the workweek. I like it that way, but my dogs don’t. In order to get them to the dog park, they need a ride. And when they don’t get to the park to get their yayas out, they tend to bark at me while I’m working.
Earlier today, that barking reached a crescendo, which is when I looked at them and said, “You want to go to LaSalle Park? OK, we’re going to hoof it, so get ready.”
My thought was that I would take a series of side roads to get there, while exploring the West Side. As much as I’ve walked these neighborhoods countless numbers of times, I knew that I would still come across some interesting things. And boy was I right.
The walk started off on Norwood Avenue. That’s where I came across a number of homes that have placed outdoor seating areas on their front lawns. My mother-in-law told me (just the other day) that she noticed that this was a growing trend around town. What’s interesting is that these homes typically have front patios – I think that the ‘chairs on the front lawns’ is more of an intimate and friendly gesture that says, “We’re happy to sit at sidewalk level to chat.”
Of course the different types of houses and gardens always amaze me. I love the way they change with the seasons. It never gets old observing the various ways that homeowners create such outwardly inviting oases. One thing I have noticed in recent weeks is that some streets come together to plant the same sorts of vines or flowers. Sunflowers are very popular this time of year, as they are in full growth mode. I also love the houses that I come across that have matching Little Free Libraries. I’m also happy to see that there are so many people who have planted milkweed around the city. The monarch butterflies are very appreciative of the kind gesture.
What’s a walk without spotting a magnificent house for sale. This one is located at 361 Porter Avenue. I looked it up on Zillow when I got home, and “wow,” is this one a charmer. Not only is it a stunner on the outside, it also retains a ton of its original architectural detailing on the interior, not to mention some nice outdoor seating areas.
While I passed a number of community gardens, I was most impressed by the Mulberry Garden tended by the Fargo Estate Neighborhood Association, in unity with D’Youville College and Grassroots Gardens. This garden has it all – places to sit and read a book, beekeeping in the back, bee hotels, birdhouses, birdbaths, common milkweed, raised garden beds, artwork, a kiddie planting station… I implore you to visit any number of Grassroots Gardens (get a map), to immerse yourself in natural surroundings filled with birds, butterflies, and numerous other critters who have found hospitable homes in an urban setting. Bring a book, or a picnic, and spend some time in a garden that you don’t have to take care of – it takes care of you.
By the time that we got to LaSalle Park, the dogs were too tuckered out by the walk that they were in no mood to play. So we sat under a tree to cool off, and drank some water to rehydrate. Sitting there, under the shady tree, gave me some time to reflect on our outing. I was so happy that we had come across so much along the route that we chose. And honestly, I picked the route by looking for the streets with the most trees, thus the most shade. For the most part, we were able to walk under the cooler shadows of the leaves, but there were still plenty of streets that were in need of some trees (especially now with the decimated ash trees, caused by the scourge of the emerald ash borer). It would be nice to see fruit and flowering trees planted in their stead.
The walk back home took longer because the dogs were hot and tired. So we stopped under shady trees more often, took more water breaks, and slowly made our way home. It was nice to come across a nice sturdy bench that someone had put out at the sidewalk, so that passersby (like me) could take a breather. It’s the simplest of gestures that let you know that you are in a neighborhood that cares for both residents and visitors. I am constantly in awe of the homeowners who take such incredible care of their homes and gardens, and who want to share the fruits of their labor with rest of the community. Thank you.