The alley behind our house is surprisingly wild place. It’s mostly a narrow asphalt lane lined with plastic trash bins and metal fences, but here and there nature has carved out a space. There is a huge oak tree, whose roots have torn up the asphalt around it like so much dirt. There are the weeds and grass sprouts that wiggle up through any hole they can find in the pavement. And then there are the animals.
Just this weekend, we saw three different kinds of wild mammals in the alley (not counting the homo sapiens): a fat squirrel, a very cute fluffy rabbit bounding through the snow, and one very big rat scurrying about the trash bins. I’ve also seen a raccoon in the alley and the expected pigeons. Not to mention our neighbors’ pet cats and dogs.
It’s strange to think of so much wildness out there in the city, and even back there in our little alley, especially since alleys are such a quintessential urban space, and urban spaces are the quintessential human spaces. But alleys are also blank spaces for us, in a way, less a real space than a space between. And the wild is very good at taking back the places we leave untended, no matter how much pavement we use.