"We can see the country...we can see how the beautiness is still in the country...we can still see the spirit of the land glistening." From Iwenhe Terrette - what it means to be an aboriginal person, Margaret Kemarre Turner.
Dispiriting. Inspiring. Between these two words lies a garden, one that I have attended to for the last decade. Sixty years ago when a lot was developed and the house in which I live was built, a thick layer of dredged sand was trucked in to level out the yard. This left a good-sized area to the side of the garage not suitable for growing much of anything. When I arrived in 2000, this space was desolate, a wasteland thoroughly colonized by wire grass with a generous sprinkling of nut sedge. Walking across the area barefoot, or even just bare ankled, was pure torture. It turns out that the delightful name "nut sedge" hides the thorny nature of the so-called nut, a spike of sharpened needles more shrapnel than fruit that pierces effortlessly and stays painfully embedded in any flesh brushing against it. The sand fill in which these plants were rooted was so compressed that not even scrub trees had a found a way in. And cars speeding down the alley were increasingly encroaching on the land, their tires grinding into the earth what little diversity remained at large.
|Catalpa Growing on the Berm with Jerusalem Artichokes to the right.|
Over a decade in, persistent efforts have transformed this little patch of earth and, as well, its gardener. Margert Kemarre Turner would likely argue that the transformation was most assuredly not of the land, whose spirit, in its beautiness and glistening, was already waiting for me, but only of my own capacity to see again what had been hidden from untutored eyes. The land already knew what it was capable of. Its gardener on the other hand, needed to figure this out. In the process, he has found new hope to stave off a growing sense of dread that comes from living in a time of immense loss of habitat for an immense array of living kinds, a time that is being named the Anthropocene.
As a human of the Anthropocene, I take welcomed comfort in these endeavors to restore to the living kinds a small bit of country. Certainly this alone will not be enough. Certainly systemic efforts are called for as well. But loving the earth requires more than acting systemically. It requires the touch of one's hands, close up and personal.
|Fly Sunning herself on a Lily.|
|Wasp Searching for Nectar on Echinacea|
|Sweat Bee Searching for Nectar on Flea Bane|