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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Way of Things



It’s spring.  The ground phlox blooms pink over granite ledge, the blossoms from one round of rhododendrons drop while another readies to pop.  We’ve greened up nicely, but amidst my gardening chores this weekend, I discovered repercussions from The Great Tree Tragedy of Winter, 2013.  Although we’ve finally cleaned up the area where a massive oak demolished our shed, sheared off the tops of five pines and irrevocably altered the appearance of our yard, the tree that caused the mess is having a final say.
  
Our new shed rests a few feet back from the footprint of the old one.  The fat leafed Hostas that used to sit by the door of the old building now sit too far out.  While deciding where to move them, we noticed seedlings.   Amidst the wood chips left over from stump grinding, in between the stone steps and crevices that populate our yard, tiny oaks have burst forth from the bumper crop of acorns the old tree spewed when it crashed to the earth. I spend an hour on my knees yanking the little guys up on Sunday, before realizing eliminating them will be a long-term project.
 
Even more than the damage caused by the tree itself, this burgeoning yield communicates the ultimate authority of nature.   Oh sure.  We notice when she comes at us with wind and snow, rain, hurricanes and tornadoes. Newscasters are quick to sensationalize those big ticket events, the ones that bully us with strength and ferocity.   A few months later in our side yard though, Mother Nature demonstrates a more subtle power.

As I sat yanking sprouts up by the roots, it became clear to me how inconsequential my place is on this earth.  I’m a hiccup really, even less. We’ve lived in our home 21 years.  But were we to turn our backs, in less than half that time the yard we’ve tilled, planted and edged would return to brush and trees.  The acorns deposited across our half-acre have the potential to contour the landscape long after I’ve become nothing more than compost.  So what if I pull this crop up?  There will always be more.  Year after year, oaks, maples, pines and ash will disperse a gazillion more seeds which will in turn, become trees.  At some point, the invasive pricker-vines I dig up each spring will have their way.  The poison ivy that seeds itself in my gardens will drown out the perennials I tend to with love. Bittersweet vines will become an impenetrable tangle.
  
As I sat in the shade of two oak saplings we’ve “allowed” to grow over the last few years gazing out over an area now populated with baby oaks, I understood the temporary and inconsequential nature of our presence here.  We call it “our” house, and “our” yard.  But really, it’s on loan to us from a relatively benevolent Mother Nature.  Once in a while, she feels the need to deliver a blatant reminder that she’s in charge.  Most of the time though, she humors us by letting us garden and mulch and shape the land, full well knowing in the end, she’ll take her earth back and form it how she pleases.   

9 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I always think that I am tending the land for God, as it's not really mine anyway.
I take it a lot of oak trees would be bad? Of course, they don't hold up in the wind like pine trees do.

Kittie Howard said...

Most of the time though, she humors us by letting us garden and mulch and shape the land, full well knowing in the end, she’ll take her earth back and form it how she pleases.

Liza, no one could have said the above better!

I'm not a fan of oak trees. Their leaves are a pain!

mshatch said...

I'm not a fan of Oak trees either, mainly because of the damn acorns! They are a pain in the butt.

Without us humans, it wouldn't take long at all for Mother Nature to reclaim everything.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Nothing like those big storms to make us feel insignificant. We lost so many trees last year and are still dealing with the mess.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Excellently stated! We are inconsequential, not just in the face of violent tumult wreaked by storms and natural disasters, but by the slow, persistent creeping of small green things determined to live and grow and spread.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It's pretty humbling when we put things into perspective, isn't it? Terrific post.

Jan Morrison said...

I like this! Yes, it is somewhat discouraging but it is also grand and marvelous. Like a bit of green growing up through the crack in a Manhattan sidewalk! Thanks for the reminder of who's in charge here!

'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

This one will make me think for quite a while...
I spend so much time and actually get so much enjoyment out of shaping my household and keeping it as I see fit. It does seem that we are but a mere blip in the universe and yet we all shape the future by what we do and how we take care of things.

Catherine A. Winn said...

Humans think they are in control until nature gives them a much needed humbling experience. Another good, thought provoking post!