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The City: a Zoo of Humans

My studio apartment in downtown Seattle is on the fourth floor of an old building crowned with gothic architecture. I live right at tree level with two Little Leaf Lindens trees reaching their arms into my open windows on a daily basis. Because I am an avid plant collector (borderline hoarder), my window sills are lined with my green friends who soak up all the meager Seattle sunshine that can get through the canopy of Linden leaves. This arrangement confuses the insects that flock to the sweet smelling flowers in the spring and make their home there throughout the summer. All too often you find me rounding up a large cup and cardboard duo for my catch and release ritual for bees and bright green grasshoppers that wander in unaware.

But lately, I keep the bright green grasshoppers around. They seem to like it in my apartment and I have started to like them. I see them watching me as I watch them. I begin to feel like I’m the one being observed: the large hairless animal confined to a singular habitat in the form of a studio apartment; a mammal whose ancient ancestors lived in the wild and once fended for themselves. I am now at home in my habitat wondering if I am in my own zoo, exhibiting my human behavior for the insects, squirrels, and birds that pass by my windows. The whole city can feel like a zoo with all the structures and parks we created to keep us occupied through the day. Without a car, I can’t easily get out on my own, and yet, I happily return to my own habitat, the place in the world that is just for me. My very own territory that is now much smaller than the one I knew in my childhood, still it is something I can claim as my own and that satisfies my own animal need for territory.

It’s not perfect, and I do make sacrifices out of courtesy to my neighbors. I garden inside instead of outside, I minimize unnecessary items, and I adapt. I don’t get to leave whenever I want to because it takes a lot of planning; I can’t even run a whole block without getting held up in crowds or stopping for traffic. The insects and squirrels outside my window, may see my existence to be limited when compared to the breadth of the sky and plethora of trees in the city. But what they don’t know is that I want to be here in the city, I want to be alive on this planet and so I adapt to a lifestyle that would be incomprehensible to my ancestors. I can thrive in a space much smaller than I am used to. I find excitement in the ever changing world and I find peace in learning about myself through the perspective of an insect.

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