Top

Letter from Zagora

(Ed. Note: This file was emailed with a date of April 1, 2050. At first it seemed to be an elaborate April Fools joke, complete with somehow messing with my gmail dateline, but it was so interesting I thought we would share it…)

April 1, 2050

Greetings from the future.

Some of my young friends have come to me and told me that we can now send emails into the past. They seemed very excited, as young people tend to get.

I, of course, was not surprised. I dug out my old, yellowed copy of this letter, which I had written years ago (and kept as a hard copy, because I know how fragile electronic media really is). I was able to tell them exactly what time and place to send it to.

Don’t think about it too much. Just read the letter.

You’ll notice that this is a letter from Zagora. That’s what we named the old Riverwest neighborhood when we re-formed as a selfsustaining city state after the Uprising in ’28.

Zagora is the old name for the neighborhood – the name the Polish people gave it when they moved north across the river from the lower east side. Zagora means “beyond the green hill.” They were referring, of course, to the old Reservoir Hill – what we have come to call the High Ground. (And no, it does not refer to “over the hill,” as in what you young punks think all us old hippies are. There – I beat you all to the joke. Ha.)

Creation of the High Ground was one of our greatest victories, when the neighborhood joined together to make the old Reservoir Hill our spiritual center. I’d like you all to know that the old Hill is now a place where we gather for our holy times – a sacred space under the sky with a breathtaking view of the river valley and the urban woodlands all the way to the lakeshore. The slope of the hill is studded with beautiful community food installations. People wander through beds of cool lettuces, jungles of tomato vines and cathedrals of cornstalks as they make their way to the shining brow of the hill when we celebrate our community times.

Zagora is a beautiful land. Not without problems, of course, but nowhere near as vexing as the old Riverwest was those first couple of decades in the 21st century. Those were tough times.

The first decade of the new century felt like an uneasy awakening after the long nightmare of the Bush presidency. Those of us who had toiled through the dark were met with such a confusing mix of suspicion and disapproval. It was as if all of us had been lied to and morally injured to such an extent that our cynicism prevented us from trusting anyone – even each other. We called each other names and treated each other horribly.

But we broke through the mistrust of that painful time. I think the healing really took place when we stood together on the southern rim of the High Ground and claimed it as our own.

I guess that’s really the point of this letter.

I want to put you on alert that this is going to be a busy summer for all of you.

Some of you – you know who you are – need to get your act together to carry the Gordon Park 4th of July celebration into a new era. The whole neighborhood is going to be so pleased and excited when you see that celebration grow and evolve.

This coming month, April of 2007, is going to begin a major public policy process that will (eventually, after hours of talking and a ton of work) produce an amazing Central Park area along the Milwaukee River from North Avenue to the city limits at Silver Spring. Watch for this – it’s going to form the main thoroughfare of our small-scale transport system that’s vital to us in the middle of the century.

It will also be a delightful, refreshing place to walk, canoe and enjoy nature during the next few decades of urban upheaval. Trust me, you’ll need it when the pharmaceutical companies stop producing mood elevators.

This summer watch for the beginning of a national movement to urban agriculture, with Milwaukee in the vanguard. Keep your eyes open for a new organization, the Milwaukee Urban Agriculture Network, that’s going to champion urban agriculture as the cutting edge of economic development.

The old Riverwest neighborhood will become famous as the first urban neighborhood in the country to be completely food selfsufficient. Keep the faith, folks – it won’t happen for a few years, but it’s coming. And by the way, urban agriculture is going to bring the most family-supporting jobs into the neighborhood since the old Chrysler AMC plant closed down in the mid-1900s. Not to mention how it’s going to save Milwaukee from the worst effects of the food riots that are going to be so devastating in other cities.

Greenfolks Garden is going to have a great summer – watch for this. They’re buying their garden lot from the city, and Milwaukee Urban Gardens is helping. This is going to prove to be a very important model for urban agriculture. Keep an eye on this project.

Garden Park is going to be another important issue. Remember, it’s vital to keep your local marketing infrastructure in place. You’re going to be very thankful in the future that you managed to preserve Gardeners Market. You’ll appreciate it in the short run – it’s a great place for people to gather and talk and listen to music while they buy vegetables. And it will continue to be so, thanks to your hard work. But in the long run, you’re going to find that it pays off in a big, big way. Keep your supply lines under your control – it’s important.

So get ready for some hard work.

We’ll all appreciate it in the future. Trust me, I know.

(Oh, all right, it’s me…Jan Christensen)

Riverwest Currents online edition – April, 2007