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Birds sing over the steely waters in Virginia. The seven of us staff each stand with our hands on our hips and our chest puffed, eyes cast down in thought. Wind moves around us but we stay rigid. After two minutes, we shake it out and drop our pensive power poses. ‘Let’s try and bookmark this moment- the grass and the water and the birds, for when things get shaky this summer,’ one of the staff says. ‘Hold this as a place to come back to.’



Never judge a row house by its front door. That is something I learned this week while I drove through the city searching for little-known gardens and pocket parks. My project this week has been determining which green spaces in the city should be designated as "qualified community-managed open space," or QCMOS. My organization submits a list of QCMOS spaces to the city government twice a year so they know that they should not actively market the lots on which these spaces exist. There are certain requirements to be QCMOS, but I discovered that there is a certain feel in a well-loved green space: a design, an appreciation, a use. Sometimes they're subtle, like a few trees on a mowed lawn. Sometimes, the uses are obvious-like those gardens that are home to fruits and vegetables, often located in some of the worst food deserts in the city. I talked to community members when I was able to contact them about their spaces, but when they were difficult to reach, I went on a hunt for their lots. What was most exciting during my search for these spaces was discovering the most whimsical, vibrant gardens and parks nestled in the alley ways of classic Baltimore row homes. Often times the street address lead me to an unassuming property, perhaps a few vacant lots or homes nearby, but once I looked a little deeper, greenery would appear where neighbors and community members had transformed a vacant lot into an oasis. I look forward to discovering more of Baltimore's hidden greenery in the weeks to come.