in Paris gardens
French horticultural students brought me this beautiful bouquet from their gardens, but they also gave me a more poignant gift. They asked me what I thought of our American invention of suburbs.
I hadn't thought about what suburbs have done to Europe in a while. Years ago in Sweden I visited a tapestry weaver in a new subdivision full of wild flowers. More recently, though, French films set in Paris suburbs seethe with resentment and anger.
By asking the question, the students intimated the answer. Too often, bedroom "communities" abolish community ideals. Developers who run sewer and electricity to lots - and little else - deprive their residents of their own gardens, parks, swimming pools, libraries, festive halls, public markets and art centers. Suburban dwellers seeking these amenities in nearby locales probably do not support them as fully as core members.
Our Iron Age ancestors could teach us something. They put their best efforts into their shared spaces. Halls where they celebrated weddings, birthdays, solstices - those were their gems. They received guests in those vaunted places, in the midst of parks and gardens.
The whole point of governance is to pull together, not apart.
Mindful students bring hope for a beautiful future. Please keep thinking about these issues, dear young Scholars. We need your brains now more than ever.