At the very beginning of the year I read an article in the Sunday New York Times that is part of a “series in which writers from around the world describe the view from their window” accompanied by an illustration of that view.
In this piece called “Mr. Borges’s Garden,” Maria Kodama, wife of the late writer Jorge Luis Borges, looks out her library window and writes that the urban courtyard garden is a type known in Buenos Aires as a “pulmón de manzana.” This is translated literally as the “lung of the block.”
I was so struck by this phrase — lung of the block. It’s remarkable because it’s an acknowledgement of the important way in which the trees, shrubs and plants that we care for repay us.
We depend on each other in a beautifully reciprocal arrangement. Our plants take in the carbon dioxide of our exhalations and return to us some of the oxygen that is so essential to our existence. We need each other and here is a culture so aware of that relationship that it has a phrase that describes it in a few short words.
I can think of no similar phrase in the English language. Can you?