Where do you see nature in
Thurston Woods? “We see nature
all over the place,” according to
Lorie Koehler. Many of us see nature
in the shady and cool tree-lined
streets, the birds in yards and in
Havenwoods. But how many of us
have thought about how nature here
took form and how much of a push
and pull there still is between man
and nature in the neighborhood?
The landscape of Thurston Woods is
man-made, sometimes working with
nature and the natural shape and
movement of the land, sometimes
in conflict. Early maps of the area
show the land after the first settlers
cleared it of the standing forest:
what are now Havenwoods and
Berryland are wetlands, much of
the remaining space was farm fields.
Later, these areas became military
installations, veterans’ housing,
residences and industrial sites. We
have modified nature to suit our
However, nature isn’t passive. Heavy
rains flood low lying basements
and change the level and quality of
Lincoln Creek; lack of rain turns
lawns brown. Wildlife is attracted to
yards; some species welcome, some,
like squirrels at the bird feeder, are
not. Plants find a bit of soil and grow
through concrete in the alley, or
creep up the garage, or erase all but
a trace of former Nike missile silos.
The push and pull, the tug-of-war,
between man and nature continues
and is played out in the streets, yards
and alleys of Thurston Woods.
In The Granite Garden, Ann Spirn notes that we have viewed nature and the city as two distinct and separate elements rather than nature being “an essential force that permeates the city…the city must be recognized as part of nature and designed accordingly.” By seeing and understanding the fundamental connection between nature and neighborhood, each resident can make personal home and yard “design” actions, perhaps taking advantage of the Agape Center’s rain barrel program, or giving over a portion of the lawn to native plantings that are drought tolerant, or simply cleaning leaves from a storm sewer come fall. Each small act diminishes the tug of war between man and nature.
Spirn, A. W. (1984) The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design. New York: Basic Books.