Digging within the Soil

By Carmelle Nitereka


We are all taught to think immediately -it a strategic tool- so we learn to live believing our achievements, our freedom, is our own. Consequently, we believe that our demise and bondage is ultimately ours alone to fight (and when we don't find a way out, we become a faulted people). This reality reflects within our institutions, architecture, policies, interest, as well as daily person to person interactions coded with assumptions. Our immediate way of processing life has led to a domino effect of quick-fix patches. Cool, so now some of us are getting on board and questioning the bigger hole dug up by these ineffective solutions, but we still fail to ask the simple questions of the life before us. Who do we make provisions for? What foundations have been laid here?

Look at nature. A dendrologist, who studies trees, does not simply make absolute conclusions based on the fallen branches. They get on their knees and dig within the soil that surrounds it. They search for answers at the roots. They explore beneath the surface. As a dendrologist, it would be obvious that rich soil nurtures roots and allows for the tree to thrive. Equally uncontested, a tree nurtured under beds of concrete would be suffocated from its ability to thrive. Drawing from experience, our need for immediate knowledge has most of us looking to the fallen branches for our answers.  

Not to go on a tangent, but the weather’s been wonderful and it seems like all bike lovers are back. Especially in Atlanta, where you can walk ten minutes and be surrounded by a different neighborhood with a starkly different feel, it’s been noticeable that bike lovers seem to live in distinct areas (i.e. Grant Park). To generalize,  neighborhoods and areas that reflect more suburban lifestyles tend to have greater use for bicycles for leisure and active transport. It’s not uncommon to see a few families bicycling around their neighborhoods, but how often have you seen a family in 'urban' areas entertain the same form of leisure? The assumption may be that it’s simply a difference surrounding culture, but sometimes cultures are influenced by the provisions and architecture available. What bike provisions are available in suburban areas? Do these mirror the provisions available in ‘urban’ areas? Where can we find architecture (i.e. bicycle lanes, racks) to support active transport? Who has access to best practices and safety information? Where are the accessible park trails located? Where are the bike coops located, who has access to that information? Essentially, where have the foundations been laid to support a bicycle culture? In exploring these questions, it becomes difficult to remain with surface level assumptions. I use this as an example to preface the many daily assumptions or realities we accept without question. It is easy to walk into a space and see things as they are. It is even easier to claim our observations as culture, because we seek answers, but authentic answers require deeper questions. 

So I’m still sporadically discovering what it means to ask the questions to what shaped the life around me. It all circles back to our interconnected life.Tell me your freedom is yours when you can justify that you single-handedly nurtured your own soil.