Nature is not narrow, rigid, and stagnant. Nature is diverse, flowing, evolving. The true value of living in-tune with nature encompasses the physical and mental kindness, compassion, love, respect, appreciation, and connectivity of all living things including the non-animal parts of nature.
The human animal is a part of the universal ecology. Within it, humans play a myriad of roles as the source of destruction, skeptic, idler, as well as the source of improvement, reparation, and positive creation. Humans have the ability to live life in harmony with oneself, others, and the earth.
“A garden forces the gardener to look at the world in a whole new light,” says Chris Condello, Penn State Master Gardner. “Gardening is a powerful and inspirational activity. Gardening not only inspires a love of plants, it inspires a love of the world as a whole.”
Although Chris’ focus is urban gardening, guerrilla gardening, and nature, Chris is an artist in every sense of the word. His writing, poetry, art, photography, and activism, genuinely convey the way he sees the world. His magnificent expressions of what happens within the confines of the garden creates unparalleled beauty in incredible ways.
Chris, who describes himself as “urban to the core,” lives in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania on a dead-end street where half of the twenty-four houses are boarded and abandoned. “Although urban blight tends to depress most people,” Chris says, “I have found it to be incredibly inspirational.”
Without money to invest or donate, Chris contributes his extraordinary gardening skills to the community. His positive influence on the neighborhood environment is extraordinary.
“Many of our aging cities experienced industry related population booms. These explosions in population favored the removal of nature as opposed to the integration of nature,” Chris says of the concrete urban landscapes we are dealing with today.
“As homes have been abandoned and left to rot, as they are now torn down, green space is slowly opening up. It is of great importance that we make sure these open spaces are returned to nature.”
“Nature can still flourish in an urban environment as long as we leave some space to thrive.” Chris
envisions miniature parks and micro-wildlife habitats all over our cities. “The true value of living in-tune with nature will become apparent.”
“Urban garden construction is typically exciting and fun,” Chris says. “Gardens, regardless of size and style, require an incredible amount of time and maintenance.”
The downside regarding the popularity of urban gardening is the emphasis on money and the focus on the creation of new gardens as opposed to the support of past infrastructure. Gardening is not merely for the benefit of humans.
“When we grow for ourselves, we should always allow some for nature. Accommodation is paramount to elimination.”
Chris recognizes the intrinsic value of nature as well as the function of and symbiotic relationship within nature. “When we create gardens, we are creating food and shelter for insects and animals. We are creating a habitat for nature.”
In addition to attracting insects and animals, Chris states, “Gardens are also great at attracting humans.” As a gardener, Chris brings awareness to the social and environmental value of urban gardening and nature. “A garden is an equalizer. When humans picture paradise, they picture a garden.”
His love of gardening and ability to do amazing things with little to no money has opened doors for Chris that have not been opened to others like him. As a mentor, Chris teaches life skills, such as basic construction and organic farming, to kids that otherwise would not have these experiences.
Regardless of divisions between race, culture, and social class, Chris states, “Gardening is a universal language. I can teach anyone to grow. My green thumb levels the playing field and can tear down any wall.”
“With a little bit of creativity, anything is possible. Anyone can make big changes,” Chris believes. “It doesn't matter if we may have screwed up in the past, we can all still make a difference.”
“We can all benefit nature. We can all benefit the future. We just need to observe, listen, and we will find our place. We will find our style among the trees, among nature, and among the earth.”