Imagining hope, the future Somerville

(continuation of my hopeful imagining for Tim Devin’s zine, The History of Somerville, 2010-2100)


from A Tree Grower’s Diary, see link below

In the middle of Davis square is a giant European purple beech, about fifteen feet around. It’s a wishing tree, and it’s hung with offerings – bells and folded colored paper, tiny bottles, birdseed on sticks. Underneath the tree there is always a storyteller, and there is always a dreamspeaker. Other parts of the square are devoted to music and dancing, and moving or not meditation, and outdoor schools. Apparently all the squares in Somerville – and what used to be Boston – are like this now.

The Davis Square T station is still here, only it’s running green on a combo of wind and solar energy. There’s a monorail system overhead, zipping around as silent as a dragonfly, and following ley lines. I see horses and donkeys – Tufts field has become pastureland – and even more bicycles and bicycle-carts – the bike path that used to end at Cedar Street now runs all the way to ocean in the east, and to New-York-state-that-was in the west.

220px-Tiny_house,_PortlandMeanwhile the parking lots in Davis Square have become live-in parks, dotted at random with small to medium-sized cottages – each one different, but most have grass or flowers on the roof – that turn out to be no-income housing, for those people who used to be called homeless. Now they live among communally owned and tended orchards and gardens, in their own homes, each stamped with the personality of its owner – one is nearly invisible in the bamboo grove around it, another is painted in blue, pink, and green stripes, another seems made entirely of windows in different shapes and sizes, each one curtained in so many colors the house looks like a patchwork quilt.

There are a LOT more birds – even big ones like eagles and cranes, and is that a flock of passenger pigeons?* – and fewer people overall, but way more children out and about, playing in the grassy spaces where the traffic used to be. There isn’t anything resembling a skyscraper around here, not even downtown; my bird-guide tells me they went the way of the woolly mammoth and the meter maids. And the big nursing home on College Avenue is part-school, part elder home. Apprenticeship is once again the mode, so there’s less ‘retirement’, and then there’s always those elders who are good with kids, and kids who need them.

Across the street and up a block, the West branch library is now open 24/7, with plenty of librarians for each shift, and no shift lasting longer than 4 hours. It seems like a joke in poor taste that the library was once closed most evenings, every night, and all weekend, and understaffed besides. In this day and age it has been completely restored inside (with an elevator!), and has trees out front and flowers on the roof, like a crown.

*Somebody else was imagining hope, too. Click on the passenger pigeon link above to see how scientists are working to bring back the passenger pigeons, using DNA from corpses of the extinct birds.

On a sadder note, here’s the story of a European purple beech.

Imagining hope, the future Somerville

566647857_8918df67abHere’s my own foray into imagining hope like crazy, which was published in Tim Devin‘s zine, The History of Somerville, 2010-2100. The ‘history’ ranges from wildly idealistic (I wasn’t the only one to predict the end of fossil fuels, solar collectors on every roof, and crops growing in the streets) to dead serious (flooding from climate change, collapse of the world economy, no more harvestable seafood) to deadpan (a dog becomes mayor; the Somerville Arts Council accepts its first artificially intelligent board member, Ip/So; Hurricane Igor decimates the town), as is the way with the folk of the ville.

My own prediction was for 2148 — outside the timeline. I wasn’t that optimistic. But what the hey, hope is hope.

Notes from a time traveler. Written on plain lined paper, found in a decaying leather suitcase in a closet in West Somerville around 1999.

So I accepted the invitation to time-travel to Somerville in 2148. The invitation came from a little bird – a grey bird, like a mockingbird, only smaller. (And then, he spoke to me, in English, inside my head, so I knew he wasn’t a regular mockingbird.) He says he will be my travel guide.

As we come flying in over the city, I am dazzled by the rooftops. They are covered with solar collectors of all shapes and sizes. The ones like mobiles wink and glitter when the breeze stirs them. The rooftops that happen to be flat are green with gardens – grape arbors and climbing roses, vegetables and herbs, even trees. As we circle Davis Square, I can see that the rooftops have hanging gardens, and even open meadows of grass and wildflowers.

No one’s using fossil fuels anymore, the bird says. It’s changed everything.

He adds that there’s no advertising anymore, either – no commercials, no newsprint advertisers dumped in mailboxes, no flyers, no print catalogues, no billboards, no focus groups, no glossy magazines, no spam, no telemarketers, no pop-ups. How did that happen? All the bird will say is that the word yuppie is no longer in use, anymore than the words homeless or disadvantaged.

Many of the roads have been dug up and planted. The houses in rows are still there, but now the rows tend to curve, and from above the neighborhoods – like little tribal enclaves – are obvious, even though they run into each other. Streams knit and divide the neighborhoods – the bird says the streams are all the water that used to run free above ground, released from their long darkness, as well as irrigation creeks, running off every which way, and glinting with the quartz in them.

Highland Avenue is planted as far as I can see with spirals of corn, and tucked in next to the corn are all kinds of plants, that the bird says are vegetables and flowers. Around the spirals are greenhouses for vegetables and fruit;* but the greenhouses are in the process of being dismantled for the summer, as the orchards and gardens come in.

*Here’s a link to an organic urban farm in Detroit, MI called Earthworks. Earthworks has greenhouses as part of the farm; it’s connected to a soup kitchen, WIC programs, youth programs, etc. The farm was started in 1997, part of the movement in Detroit to reclaim and use vacant lots to grow food, in anticipation of the dearth of fossil fuels and subsequent lack of food (20% of fossil fuel use is for transporting food). Follow the links on their site for media coverage of Earthworks, as well as more on urban gardening in other cities.