9.13.21 // meditation on a parking lot plant

I saw this little scene in a parking lot about six months ago. I think it's taken me this long to write about it because it seems to speak for itself: it's a plant sprouting out of the concrete, enclosed by a painted yellow line. A portrait of man versus nature.

It's ironic on a few levels. Firstly, it's a metaphor for the boundaries we build in an attempt to keep nature out, both physically and conceptually. Physically, through our architecture: sealed walls, straight lines (despite the fact that nature has made clear just how superior rounded/circular walls are for aerodynamics, temperature control, and even material usage, we in the western world continue to adamantly build with dead-straight lines). Conceptually in that, for instance, skyscrapers are built to act against the natural phenomenon of gravity (a skyscraper's beauty in part resides in its resistance to nature — something we seem to get better at each decade). When we imagine our greatness, we do so by imagining our difference from nature — so we draw this yellow circle to box nature out.

The punchline is that, the minute we've finished painting our circle, the sprout pops up in the middle of it.

It's a joke that never gets old for nature: the yellow line we've painted is, well... just that: a painted line. The sprout in the circle is both a history and a prophecy of human silliness/futility. And it's funny because we take our yellow line so seriously.

What's strange, though, is that we also want nature to invade the space we've sectioned off as ours. A simple scrolling session through the annals of interior-design Pinterest will tell you all you need to know about how we romanticize plants growing out of and into old buildings. We love it when nature "reclaims" what we have attempted to lay claim to (to allude to this photo quite literally, the "human sphere" we've built). The juxtaposition makes it aesthetic, and the irony makes it grotesque.

One more thing: the yellow line also reminds me of urban boundaries, of the way we section off parts of cities and eradicate habitats to grow these cities. Growth combats growth. It's "one of us is gonna have to change" mentality. We section off people, too, through the lines we draw in urban spaces. We make borders and queues and circles. The more I stare at the photo, the more of a portrait it becomes.

@ chloe montague 2023