“They paved paradise and put up a parkin’ lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
— Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
And tonight it was empty.
The park was closed as I walked by. A few glittering leaves fluttered across the yellow lines, driven by a chilly breeze. There were no cars. There were no dogs, and no people to walk them. There were no children getting out of cars to go to the playground. It was an empty place, an empty space.
An empty parking lot is an unused space. During the day this particular parking lot is bustling with people coming to and from our neighborhood park, built as an invitation to gather, play, exercise, and relax. But at night it’s empty.
Some parking lots are forever empty. Lots in front of shuttered factories, abandoned buildings, and office complexes that never were. They stand unused, a concrete wasteland. Nothing can grow except a few determined weeds.
In life, we build our own parking lots.
When we’re young, we live in houses but grow up in the grassy fields. And in those fields of green, we look at every blade of grass in wonder, trying to understand it. We examine every flower that blooms, marveling at it’s beauty. When the wind blows, we watch as the blades bend and snap back. When the sun shines, we lay in the grass and feel how it cools us. It’s all new, fresh, and we’re endless fascinated.
But as we age, we start to construct buildings around us. We solidify the stories we tell ourselves into buildings that represent our beliefs and prejudices, our self image and self conscious. We lay down steps in those buildings to reach ever higher. From spouse to parent to professional to businessman to follower to writer to athlete to intellectual, those are the buildings we live in, rarely venturing out. And on the rare occasions when we do venture out, we don’t see any more grassy fields. Just parking lots.
It was in those fields where we were curious. Where things grew. Where new things, new ideas, and new people came into our life. Where a flower would bloom unexpectedly and magic would bloom with it. We didn’t control that spot. It was unpredictable and wild. We just watched it grow, and grew with it.
As you look out from a story in a building that you’ve constructed, look down between the buildings. Then if you’re brave, venture outside and stand in the parking lot. Look around. Really look. Are those spaces which were once grassy fields now carefully manicured squares? Are you standing on the solid and unchanging concrete of your beliefs and values?
Fortunately, there’s still time, to give time, to tear the parking lot up. Just to see what grows. To relinquish a little of our control so we can see what might bloom. To give time to new people and new ideas. People different from us. Ideas that challenge our beliefs and values.
*They* didn’t pave paradise. We did.
We paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Ran some Charity Miles over lunch, then walked a few more in the evening, hoping to see more grass than parking lots.