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Natural Cleveland: November

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/04/16 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Natural Cleveland

Many abandoned or vacant buildings are reverting to more natural forms.

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On Superior Avenue, near East 107th Street, as you head towards East Cleveland, there is a building I often pass. I don’t know what it was. Only its frame is left, like a hollowed out tree. A forest is erupting from its ceiling. Several different species grow from every conceivable corner of the cracks in its concrete.

It reminds me of a presentation I saw at college on trees of life. Trees of life are central to human life or are part of human life and grow despite humans. Like strangler figs that take over buildings and become part of the structure. The trees that spring from the concrete here are opportunistic and invasive, scrappers of the tree world. Like catalpas (Catalpa speciosa), trees of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), maples (Acer platanoides), and mulberries (Morus alba).

Next to the building is an abandoned field covered in flowers, dead during this month, and weeds all of them, that is a vision from heaven in the summer months.

At Delmont and East 123rd, at least two of the old and beautiful houses are abandoned. They are encircled by lots that are reverting to forests. There is proof in tracks and holes in and around the houses that wildlife use these abandoned spaces for refuge. In this season, the stray cats are out and active, even if many of the other urban mammals aren’t.

In Cuyahoga Valley, there is an area off of Snowville Road where several cars were abandoned. These cars have been converted to members of the forest thanks to time and the work of mammals, who use the cars as sleeping quarters.

It is both beautiful and horrible to watch nature reclaim buildings, cars, and city land. It is beautiful to see life taking over, but I wish that these areas weren’t abandoned, that the re-appearing nature was a sign of revitalization, and not neglect.

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