The wilds touch my back door. A part of them does anyway. Strangeish insects and unfamiliar Corvids enliven the “wilds”of my new backyard. Tall skinny Evergreens surrounded by persistent English ivy. Small deciduous trees that await new spring leaves dot the landscape accented by bright green moss providing splashes of color that reminds me that spring really truly here.
A tiny brook babbles on by fifteen feet below. I can hear frogs in the morning and the friendly neighbor’s cat comes to greet me in the bright but cool sunshine. I am beginning to attune to my new atmosphere.
It is different here but I find much beauty in this newness.
I am now an apartment dweller. My big yard has been replaced by this woodsy spot with two cement slabs and the before-mentioned surrounding moss which will now serve as my garden area. I have three large pots, empty for now. I will certainly get more. Out of the thousands of plants in my old yard I brought only one; the meadow rue. It lies dormant under the soil in an indigo planter awaiting warmer weather. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make but in order to make a new life for oneself one must put aside the old.
I have done a lot of that lately; setting aside.
After a 17 year relationship I parted ways with someone who wasn’t good for me. My trusting nature and naivety paired with my wholehearted belief in redemption kept this damaging storm rolling much too long despite the, obvious to others, unhappiness it was bringing me. When living inside the eye of the hurricane; the epicenter of emotional and psychological abuse, you can’t see how bad it really is. Over time the abnormal can become the normal.
And a deep sadness can embed itself in you and you don’t realize how awful it really is in part because if you stop and do this it will break your heart and maybe you can’t go on. And so I put what I thought was a convincing happy face to the word and went on. Inside a hole grew and grew and in time, by the end of those 17 years, it was a giant gaping hole…a chunk torn out of me and beat to hell.
My yard which was in it’s entirety what I deemed my salvation would have to be left behind. My cats too. Spotsy and my Mario would stay with the house and the yard and it’s owner. I left with my two kids ( 18 and 21 ) to go live in an apartment across town. A new place of sanctuary. A place of freedom with my name on the lease.
It’s different but it is becoming home. Home is really in the people you are with not the place anyway.
I was fortunate to meet someone at work. An amazing person I knew that I knew the instant we met. I have been having the pleasure of getting to know him ever since. We all live together in this apartment that skirts the edge of this thin strip of urban woods.
There is a freeway that lies beyond it. I can hear the traffic, its steady hum sounds like the ocean to me, it is easy to drift to sleep to.
I feel free and happy and loved. I feel confident and hopeful, more than ever.
The hole in my soul is filled, love pours out and spills out into the world. I am grateful. I thank God everyday. I am blessed beyond measure. I have the opportunity to start anew and this I will do, This I am doing.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Every action or non-action we take have repercussions that run like ripples in a still pool, constantly moving and changing. Out of randomness comes a chaotic sort of order we call life.
Life is a journey with twists and turns, offshoots, detours and about-faces. We skip merrily, or unmerrily, planting seeds along the way.
Some seeds get blown away and never come to fruition, others find the right landing spot and with a little luck, care and attention erupt out of the ground bursting into life, red, ripe and beautiful like a shiny apple.
Most of the time we don’t know where they go. A small kindness is a seed that can travel far, farther than we realize. I’ve learned to appreciate the small and the seemingly insignificant.
Seeds are like that; small and seemingly insignificant. We all know that looks are deceiving and that a seed however tiny can pack a wallop. The potential of one tiny seed is incalculable.
“We can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed.”
We are always planting seeds whilst we know it or not. I like to think that every action I take however small and seemingly insignificant most likely has repercussions: good, bad or somewhere in between. The results of some of our actions are immediate, other results take longer, others longer still. Seldom does life work on our timetable, nature works on it’s own and we are a part of that greater whole.
We are a part of the web of life. We take part in the dance of the seasons; springing forth with a rush of light and energy. We burst up through into the living world, bright, trusting and full of potential thrust into the wilderness of existence, a life with gardens and tigers and people and trees and owls…so much beauty and wonder…
…and indifference, greed, Monsanto and war…
The world is our garden, the garden of our making. We grow here and there is no other place for us. We must take care to plant the right kind of seeds.
If we plant seeds of love and compassion and altruism and trust, if we plant a respect for all life and the environment, if we plant peace and understanding and tolerance with care and watering, luck and a lot of hard work, we could grow a beautiful garden with enough wonderfulness to sustain us all.
Of course this is all so easy to say….so lovey-dovey and some may say unrealistic. Yes, I know the world is an ugly place but it is also a place of beauty. It’s up to us to cull out the badness and plant the goodness. If not us, who? And if not now when?
Any farmer will tell you the best time to plant is yesterday. Get those seeds in the ground and pray for sunny days…the more seeds we plant the better.
“I will be generous with my love today. I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go. I will do this knowing that my words are like seeds and when they fall on fertile soil, a reflection of those seeds will grow into something greater.” ~Steve Maraboli
Dirt has a bad name. We assign it to foul, perverted things. Icky nasty things we do not touch lest it taint us, infect us. We are a society bent on cleanliness; antiseptic-ness. We pride ourselves in our civilized approach to dirt. Filth is what animals live in not we who are above such things.
That dirt which lies beneath our feet, it is alive, that soil; a mosaic of organic-ness which makes up much of our planet. We don’t think much of it but it’s there. We walk on it, build our homes on it, plant our food in it. It’s what holds it all together and it’s more important than people realize.
Throughout history, civilizations have prospered or declined as a result of the availability and productivity of their soils. Soil resources are critical to the environment as well as food production.
Soil is defined as a natural body consisting of layers that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with organic matter. It is the loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth and is the end product of the influence of the climate, organisms, minerals and the passage of time.
When used in agriculture, it serves as the anchor and primary nutrient base for plants and soil resources that are crucial to the environment. It absorbs rainwater and releases it later, helping to prevent floods and drought. It cleans the water acting like a sponge as the water percolates through it.
Soil is the most abundant ecosystem on Earth and is home to countless lifeforms; invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and algae. It supports and plays a crucial role in all life on this planet.
Good soil should contain a healthy mixture of soil-based organisms. These are the naturally occurring micro-organisms that release powerful enzymes responsible for keeping it free of molds, yeasts, fungi and other parasites which would otherwise make normal plant growth impossible. These organisms fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue, and pesticides; helping to prevent them from entering waterways and becoming pollutants.
The primary home of the vast soil food web is the topsoil. It’s the top layer of soil and contains most of the available nutrients. It’s where most of the biological activity takes place.
Scientists believe that 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost every year to erosion by wind, water and other causes including the way we feed the planet. Conventional agriculture encourages the depletion of topsoil because the soil must be plowed and replanted each year. Many experts believe that our chemical dependencies are stripping the soil of its life-giving properties and turning it into unproductive, thus, lifeless dirt. One inch of topsoil can take 500 years to form naturally. According to current trends, the world has about 60 years of topsoil left.
Topsoil erosion occurs when the topsoil layer is blown or washed away. Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. This is a phenomenon known as the Aeolian processes. This has happened before notably during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s when a period of severe dust storms greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the US and Canadian prairies.
On a dry grassland, the grass rooted into the soil can be the only thing keeping the soil stable. If too many animals are allowed to graze for too long, the grass can be stripped away and the soil will lose its anchoring roots. The area can become a desert. This is called desertification. Desertification and soil loss is a worldwide problem.
“According to the United Nations desertification is a creeping catastrophe. Already creating millions of environmental refugees worldwide every year, one third of the earth’s surface and the livelihoods of at least one billion people are threatened.”
This problem only deepens through time. As our global population continues to swell and demand for food increases, our ability to feed the world will become more difficult and in time perhaps impossible. Once land is lost it’s hard to gain it back. I know dirt isn’t exciting, most of us don’t think of it beyond a few scientists and the odd nut like me, but we all can do something about it. It is our planet and we have to right to our existence because it’s down to that. We need responsible and sustainable land stewardship not just here and there but everywhere.
A great place to start is at home, in our own yards. The website Wikihow features an excellent article; How to Prevent Soil Erosion . It is focused on what the average person can do about soil erosion at home and in the community. It is on the small scale but a good start.
Beyond that I think we the people need to raise awareness about this problem and through societal and monetary pressure persuade the movers and shakers in this world that we care about our topsoil and the future of the food supply. And that steps must be taken to prevent further loss and to reverse bad farming and land management practices. We need to adapt sustainable farming practices that encourage the development of a healthy topsoil by rewarding those who regenerate the environment and produce food that supports a healthier society. Most importantly we need to change the way we think about soil and how we use it. We must treasure it as the precious natural resource it is.
Future generations are counting on us…
Have a fruitful day,
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” ― Wendell Berry
It is mid afternoon. I am in a anticipatory mood. I have come to this place with one idea in mind. It doesn’t take long to get here and soon I am upon it. I wear a look of solid intent mixed with quiet determination on my face. It is obvious. I am obvious. I spy the object of my affection just out of the corner of my eye; tall, rugged and deeply handsome. I cannot contain myself any longer. I walk right up and just like that I wrap my arms around tight.
“This is good stuff”, I murmur. MM looks at me, at us, like I am out of my mind. I don’t care. Nothing can spoil this moment. I feel the energy pulsating through my body. This feels so damn good! “You should try this” I say to MM who shoots me one of those looks he gives from time to time that says: There she goes again.
I continue with my hugging. The tall Redwood seems to hug me back. I think it likes it. I call out to MM. I find he has wandered down the trail leaving me and the tree behind.
I am fortunate to live so close to this place, to such a specimen as this. Yes, as you probably have surmised I am tree-hugger and in the middle of a tree hugging session. I have heard the term tree hugger for most of my life. The image of aging hippies chaining themselves to old growth timber and militant activists may comes to mind when one hears that term.
It was several years ago when I first tried it. I was alone. I was walking in a park and then just out of the blue I got a notion, why not literally hug a tree? I thought, and then I did. It was just a quick one, I didn’t want anyone to see me and afterward I admit I felt somewhat foolish. That sort of thing was frowned upon back then. It was the 90’s and everyone was caught up in a sort of angry angst that did not translate well into nature-loving.
I was intrigued and as I got older and discovered that I didn’t care much what others thought. It was much more fun to go with my eccentricities than just to fight them, but I didn’t speak of this tree hugging hobby much. It was a personal thing. It was between me and the trees.
I hear every so often tree hugger used as a derogatory term; something someone should be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with loving nature, it is so, well…natural. Trees are part of the natural landscape. All this concrete and glass we surround ourselves is not.
I will proclaim right here, right now that:
I am a tree hugger and damned proud of it!
I wholeheartedly recommend this activity and if you haven’t tried it, you should. Don’t care what others think or if you get strange looks–do it anyway. Set an example. The tree will like it and you will too. I guarantee it! The more people hugging trees, the more it will become socially acceptable. We could start a movement!
So hug a tree today and don’t be surprised if it hugs you back!
Have a lovely day!
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
Lately I have been doing a fair amount of research for a few articles with environmental themes. And there is something that bothers me about the whole thing. As I was wading through all this technical minutiae, it struck me on how depressing the whole thing is. There are reams upon reams of information on the environment out there; books, websites and blogs from our fellow bloggers and what has struck me like a wicked slap in the face is all this doom and gloom that permeates it all.
I am someone who cares about our world an awful lot. I know there are many of us who do. I am quite passionate about the state of our planet and how we treat it. I seldom can watch the news anymore. It gets me all riled up. I find myself yelling at the screen. Environmental disasters such as oil spills and the like can set me on high simmer. So probably like many others; I have tuned out, I have admittedly buried my head in the sand. A person can only take so much bad news before they shut down.
I recently did a piece on saving the trees. It was mostly hopeful and upbeat. I included some ways on how we all can help our friends the trees. I did a lot of research on the subject and I must admit; it made me depressed.
I like to put a hopeful spin on my writing and in my life in general but at times I have to fight bouts of depression. I suppose many of us creative types do. I have borrowed a page from Winston Churchill; calling it the black dog. This dog is never welcome but from time to time it sits on my front porch and howls a bit. This clouds up my skies with gray and I try to distract myself, writing helps, working in the garden helps…helping others and trying to spread a little cheer around really helps.
Let me tell you, reading through endless reports on the state of our environment does not help. To be fair to my fellow writers out there. I know they work very hard, probably much harder than I. They are learned individuals where I am a self-taught layperson. From what I’ve been reading it is easy to see why your average person who probably cares a lot for the planet is turned off by all this stuff.
I think some writers like to show off their vocabulary and knowledge and perhaps like to play a bit on the sensationalism factor. It is difficult at times to be a reader soaking this up. There are gifted writers of non-fiction out there who makes learning a pleasure; conveying information seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly but those writers are not as common as I like them to be.
I find myself wading through this information just to get to the pertinent information. Like a bowl of oatmeal; it is good for me, but it’s bland. It just sits there like a tasteless lump and it difficult to digest.
I guess that is one of the reasons that I try to write like I do. I could use bigger words. I could try to impress you with my 20 plus years of acquired knowledge but how boring is that? This brings me back to the environmental thing. I was reading some blogs by who I’m sure are very smart well-meaning people but…and I ‘m half joking when I say this….but it made me want to jump off the nearest bridge.
If we are going to save this planet we should know what’s going on. I realize just how important and serious it all is and I am no Pollyanna, although at times I may seem like one. I am a former pessimist turned optimistic realist, emphasis on the optimism.
I talked to MM about my troubles. He is practical where I am not and he usually gives very sound advice. He said: “You do it.” “Do what’? I asked. “You should concentrate your writings on the environment, put a positive spin on it, but be real and get people to listen.” He replied calmly like it was the most simple thing in the world.
What he said made me think and I mulled it over awhile. It reminded me of my life at the moment. Over the past year or so, I’ve been hit with a lot of bad news that has caused me much distress. At first it affected me physically, then emotionally and I fell into a cycle of depression followed by bouts of over-enthusiastic denial steeped in flowery words and platitudes. I believed somehow everything would turn out for the best and I am finding this cycle repeating itself with no clear resolution. I realize this is very much like the problem with our environment; we hear all this bad news and become overwhelmed. Some of us obsess on the bad news, some ignore it and a small portion of us totally deny it. None of this solves anything and here we are hanging on while what good we do have just slips through our fingers.
I think what is needed is to face our problems head on and acknowledge them no matter how ugly and then move on to positive ways to deal with them…always looking at the bright side because there is always a bright side. We need to focus on what is good and what others are doing that is making a difference…but the key here is action.
So in the future look for more environmental pieces from me focusing on the bright side and what we as average citizens can do to help.
On the Sunny side of the street but walking with purpose,
The other night I was talking with my son. He has just turned 18 and is thinking about what he wants to do with his life. He conveyed to me his doubts and fears; his concerns about how the world is. He told me he sees us humans as parasites and he voiced his concerns about how we are treating our planet and each other.
I listened and kept silent. I thought how much he sounded like myself in the past. A past not so long ago. These were things I thought before I decided to have children It was a choice I considered very carefully. There was a voice in my head that said; how dare I bring another person into this crowded planet? Who was I add another hungry mouth into this already hungry world.
Another side of me: The hopeful part, the ones with dreams, the one that believes in belief, said that it wasn’t up to me to decide. Who was I to discard a potential human life…even and especially, the life of my possible child.? Who was I to deny life to anyone? Who made me judge, jury and executioner? If this potential child only had a few years of life…even one year, one month, one second…who was I to deny that?
Who was I to deny his beautiful blue eyes just one sunset, one hug or one tip toe through the tulips. Perhaps this child would contribute to the world…perhaps in a way I’d never imagine; maybe this child would be needed. I thought all of this at the time, almost 20 years ago and all those thoughts and feelings came flooding back to me as I heard the words of my son. I understood his feelings exactly; he is an intelligent and thoughtful young man and he made some very valid points.
I saw the look of defeat in his eyes and a bit of anger too. I know that anger all too well. The world had already been “screwed up” before either one of us got here. It’s easy to feel hopeless and angry. I listened carefully to everything he had to say and then it was my turn…
Lately in my life I have found just the right thing to say but I don’t know actually what it will be until it comes out. This is quite new and I think it is all the writing I’ve been doing and I was very grateful for that because I found myself explaining to him much of what I just mentioned,about how I had thought carefully before deciding to have him and I told him how glad I am that he is here now.
I told him I agreed that the world is going to hell and how we’ve fouled up our seas and skies and land, and how all we humans seem to see is our differences…and how much we fight each other. I also told him how much hope I have for the future and how I believe that we have it in us to make this all right, and how we as a society can change things and how it all starts with one.
I told him how it starts with little changes and how it was up to him to be that change. It is up to him to make a difference in his little corner of the world. To find something near and dear to him and make a difference. I told him that I thought my writing was like that and if enough people make a small difference…how that could grow and spread.
I talked and talked; a lot I don’t remember, but I kept talking and as I did I saw the light in his eyes begin to brighten. He was listening and I could sense the lights turning on in his brain.
Then it was my turn again to listen: He told me of his interest in nature and teaching children about nature and sharing his love of it. He told me of his plans and as he did I could see his burden lifting and my heart soared as the corners of his mouth began to curl up into a wide smile.
I’ve never have been prouder of him as I was at that moment… it was very much like the moment when I first held his tiny body in my arms and gazed into his big blue trusting eyes of his; when I knew that I had made the right decision. I have brought another beautiful life into this world who will touch others with his beauty and how wonderful this all is!
We may be small and insignificant in this world and our actions may seem hopeless; a mere drop in the bucket, but I believe we together…drop by drop by drop, together we are a mighty ocean. Together we can do anything….even save the world! The first step is believing….. and it all starts with you…make your drop count.
Thanks for listening,
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”
I’ve always had a thing for trees; I am a tree-hugger from way back, before I knew there was such a thing. I admit I’ve always carried a torch for tall guys and trees. The statuesque pines of my native Pacific Northwest really do it for me. I feel safe in the woods among the wild green of the forest. I have always been strangely drawn to them…perhaps it’s in my blood; a throwback to my very distant Native American ancestors, maybe it’s because I am fortunate enough to live a stonesthrow to a temperate rainforest or it could be that trees are just really that wonderfully special and useful structures that are a vital part of out global ecosystem.
I love to be in the forest right after a tender rainfall. The fresh scent of pine is so welcoming to me. The way the morning sun shines through the boughs of the trees and how the steam rises from the tree tops. I feel privileged to witness such an event.
Beyond their majestic beauty, trees provide we the inhabitants of this marvelous planet with so much, they give us their all and we as the human stewards of this land have not returned the favor. Ever since our beginnings as small rodent-like creatures living in a reptile dominated world we clung to the trees for our very lives. Ever experience the phenomena of falling asleep and feeling the sensation of falling only to “catch” yourself? That is a leftover from our distant mammalian past. Back to the days when our ancestors lived their entire lives in the tree canopy. Our close relatives the apes still swing from branch to branch; adept as ever, holding on with one hand whilst using the other to reach for tasty fruit.
Trees today provide sustenance and shelter to a wide variety of lifeforms and they in their wide variety have perfectly adapted to our planet’s many climates and microclimates. Trees are powerhouses of natural resources and we have depended on their immense wealth for as long as we have been here. Unfortunately, I think we take them for granted; believing them to always be in abundance. There has always been another to chop down…and another and another.
This has led to major deforestation. According to data compiled by the World Resources Institute, our beautiful planet Earth has already lost 80 percent of its forest cover due to deforestation.
Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. Seventy percent of the planet’s land animals and plants live in forests, and will perish without their homes. Trees play a crucial role in absorbing greenhouse gases. Fewer forests means larger amounts of these gases entering the atmosphere and this increases the speed and severity of global warming.
Deforestation must stop if we are to continue on this planet. I think some don’t realise how much we need trees and as a lover of trees, like my literary hero, The Lorax, I shall speak for the trees…
Forests counter erosion by holding soil together with their roots, this helps keep the nutrient rich topsoil in place which gives plants something to grow and flourish in, this also helps reduce flooding. They protect agriculture by modifying local climate extremes and ensuring water supplies. They help prevent pollution by acting like natural sponges and air filters; absorbing storm water that normally would end up in our rivers and streams.
Trees sequester carbon and absorb other airborne pollutants. They even have the ability to clean contaminated soil and ground water. One mature tree releases enough oxygen to support two people.
The leaves of trees absorb light energy, reducing reflected heat. When trees absorb water through their root system, they release moisture through leaf surfaces by a process called transpiration. This cools the air and can reduce the surrounding temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature directly under the tree by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Tree canopies blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Without them to protect us this will lead to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants, animals and humans.
Trees help return water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.
Trees and People
Studies have shown the relationship between trees and nature and mental and physical health. Patients in hospitals heal more quickly if they have a view of trees and nature. People are much more likely to go outside and walk through tree-lined communities, helping to provide a sense of community and well-being which in itself enhances people’s health. Simply viewing nature, or urban greenery decreases stress levels and enables people to cope better with day-to-day hardships.
Trees are Economical
Trees, especially mature ones, increase real estate values. They muffle urban noise and during the cold season; act as windbreaks; saving on heating costs. During the hot summer months their shade helps cool a house thus saving on air conditioning costs.
Trees are good for business
Trees not only improves the ability of residential neighborhoods to build community, they also contribute positively to business districts. Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to spend more time in canopied business districts and perceive merchants in those districts more positively than merchants in districts with fewer trees. This ultimately results in wider community networks encompassing not just where we live, but also where we work, shop, and play.
I think I’ve presented a good case for trees. Obviously we need them and they need us . How can we help our friends the trees?
How to help trees
Deforestation is such an immense problem. It is easy to feel helpless. Where do we start?
What follows are some simple ways your average person like you and I can do:
If you have the room on your property plant a tree or two…or more. If you must cut one down, replace it with another in a different spot.
If you don’t have the room or the opportunity to plant a tree, consider joining the Plant A Billion Trees Campaign and help protect The Brazilian rainforest which is home to 23 species of primates and 1,180 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish and 1,000 species of birds, almost 200 of which are not found anywhere else on Earth. Rainforests help regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate.
Help support The Nature Conservatory. This is a good cause which needs all the help it can get. Click on the link to read more about this fine organization.
Want to help closer to home? Support Local Land Trusts and Parks. There are many to choose from, just a quick Google search will uncover many.
Cut down on junk mail. It’s fairly simple: Register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association website. For $1, your name and address will be removed from prospective mailing lists. This should end about 75% of your junk mail within about 90 days. ( Who likes junk mail anyway?)
Use Paperless Billing. It cuts down on paper and really simplifies your life, giving you more time to go out and enjoy nature.
Another way to save paper is to simply reuse scraps. I use old envelopes for my shopping lists. Also when printing something consider using both sides and while you are at it, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this?” Sometimes you sincerely don’t need to.
Libraries are the perfect place to go for free access to newspapers and magazines in print. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad makes it easier than ever to read the digital editions of your favorite publications.
Use reusable shopping bags. It can be a hassle to remember but once you get used to it, it gets easy. Keep a few in your car or by the front door. Lead by example and show other shoppers you care about the environment. Perhaps you’ll prompt them to do the same.
While you are shopping, whether it be furniture, building materials or paper goods, look for FSC- and SFI-certified products. The FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for third-party certification of private forests worldwide. The SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which focuses on wood from North American Forests. Another excellent way to shop is by using Rainforest Alliance Certified Products, for a list visit their website.
WE CAN DO THIS!
I realise what I’ve said here is simplistic and the problem goes so much further than any one person or any one nation for that matter. I could cover my property in trees and never use a single piece of paper again. Everyone reading this could do the same, but the problem would still be there. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this; to help keep a dialogue going because we as a society need to have this discussion. We need to make saving our forests and saving our planet a priority. Our governments could do so much more. Socially, we can do more. We are a constantly evolving people and what was acceptable once doesn’t mean it has to be acceptable in the future.
Many believe that growing our economies is more important than growing trees. These two important causes do not need to be mutually exclusive. We the people are a force to be reckoned with.
Write a blog post; better yet, write your local government official, write the president, any president… tell them we need to stop the abuse of our planet, if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and our children’s children who will inherit the mess from us. Think the environment is going to hell now? This is nothing compared to the nightmare that future generations may inherit if we don’t act.
I don’t mean to sound negative because I am hopeful. We have made it this far in the evolutionary ladder. This is another stepping stone to our ultimate destiny, whatever that will be.
We in the first world can lead the way, together with the rest of the world we can fix this. The time of the United States’ domination is over. We have set the standard for the rest of the world and it’s not fair to blame other less fortunate countries from trying to get a piece of what we have. Instead of condemning and punishing them, we need to help them. We need to work together on this. This planet belongs to us all and so does the problem.
We can do it!
“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.”
I have to admit something that I am not proud of and this is difficult for me to do. I am somewhat ashamed but I have the need to confess…I am a nature lover. I proclaim this in much of what I write. I cannot help but do this since I feel a profound connectedness to nature, I do. I am a big advocate for the environment. I recycle, I reuse, I hug trees and all that….yes, I am a nature lover….. and I am a neglectfulgardener.
For the past year really, I have barely done the bare minimum in my yard and it shows. My sanctuary, as I once called it, is getting ragged at the edges; weeds are popping up, left to seed, the grass has brown patches and the roses are wilty.
Queen Anne’s lace has taken over in the back and choked the life out of one of my favorites: a spectacular white swan coneflower, its creamy whiteness and dark browncenters stood in terrific contrast to the Black-eyed Susan. Now only the Susan remains; her bright yellow petals were being encroached by the fine white flowers of the over-zealous and jealous Queen Anne. A wild and invasive royal who is apt to take over the whole kingdom. I have been digging out her bundled white roots but no matter how deep I dig there is always more.
I lament this. This is my fault. I am not only a neglectful gardener, I am a soft-hearted one who tends to let an unknown mystery plant grow and grow until I find, which I usually do that it is an invasive weed. These science projects, so to speak have run rampant as I have not kept up my previous level of commitment.
The Hot Lips Salvia has grown leggy and the usually sensational Scarlet Daylillies never emerged due a growing shade from a behemoth of a hedge that has taken over the west side of the yard.
The hydrangea need pruning but the fuchsia has never looked better. I am amazed at the resilience of nature; how it endures. How no matter how much we mere mortals try to have it our way, nature has hers in the end.
That being said, it would be foolish of me to fight what has been going on since before we know-it-all humans came on the scene. Nature has her checks and balances. It is a good system and insead of trying to buck that system I am going to try to mimic it as much as I can.
My plan is to plant mass quantities of White Sweet Asylum; a free-seeding, free-wheeling annual that’s ambitious and attracts a good number of various beneficial insects. The Queen and the Asylum will battle it out and hopefully, with some help from me, the Asylum will win out.
I am coming to the realization that I can use these priciples anywhere. The trick is to go with what already works. I have been reading up on the subject and plan on eventually taking out much of the grass and replacing it with native plants and edibles.
This will take a few seasons but I’m not in a hurry. I will document my progress and keep your posted.
For now I will try to stop cringing when I see the brown patchy grass and the wilted roses…and I’ll try to hold my head up high in the neighborhood. Having an unkempt weedy lawn doesn’t make me a bad person does it? Hey, I can proudly say that we used less water this summer…conservation is important too!
Have a happy day!
(Note: all the above photos were taken last summer)
Here in rainy Oregon The Sun has become a reclusive and exclusive celebrity showing its dazzling brilliance only in limited amounts.
Phone calls have not been returned and it’s agent could not be reached for comment. Sources close to the star are suggesting a contract dispute might be behind this unusual behavior. It is widely known in certain spheres that The Sun has been dissatisfied with working conditions lately: low, really no pay, overworking in one area but underworking in another, no vacation time or health benefits. The sun has had it some say. But these are just rumors. What we need are cold hard facts.
Experts have been called in and a good number of them blame the clouds, saying it is they who block out the sun. Many agree and this seems to be the general consensus. But there are some who disagree; a few have blamed the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Some have mentioned it could be the work of terrorists and one obvious lunatic has cited something called “Global Warming” as the cause.
All agree the situation has become dire and the mayor has put together a commission to study this phenomena.
Meanwhile the soggy citizens in the city of Portland are indoors; pressed up against the windows wishing and yearning and Waiting for the Sun. Moss covered and sullen, NW gardeners are is in dismay; creeping around from bush to bush with a frown–in the city of roses the roses are down battered by pelting rain and blowing wind….have I mentioned that this is early July?
The local meteorologists seem worried and look as guilty as can be, it is as if they are responsible. They keep telling us that summer is just around the corner, they mention forecasts for sunny days–always five days away.
My son is as pale as a ghost and my daughter is too, they seem to like it that way but they don’t know any better. I suppose I should be grateful, many places in the world would love all this rain and the lush green growth that results from it. (think moss) I am grateful really but I can’t help but think we are getting more than our fair share of moisture and our elusive sun problem is someone else’s elusive rain problem. Too bad we cannot share the wealth a little…
And so while My fellow Portlanders and I pull out our summer sweaters, put another log on the fire and gaze out the window expectantly for you know who, we will be grateful for what we have–every drop of it.
Cute little fuzzy buzzy bees darting from flower to flower, devoted to their task. I am an avid bee watcher. They are fascinating creatures to observe, so active and alive.
I wasn’t always like this. For most of my life I never paid much attention to bees, only enough to get out of their way. As a child I saw them as mysterious and dangerous. Now as an adult knowing their precarious position my heart soars every time I see one.
I no longer take these essential little dynamos for granted. We owe much to bees and this goes far beyond honey. It is the by-product of their “busyness” pollinating roughly three-fifths of the food plants in the United States that keeps us in groceries, so to speak.
One full third of our diet depends on bee pollination.
We can thank our helpers; the bees for many of our favorite foods including: strawberries, apples, apricots, blueberries, kiwi, almonds, coconuts, pomegranates, cherries, okra, onions, sunflowers, tangerines, oranges, hazelnuts, soybeans,cauliflower, avocado, cucumber and watermelon just to name a few.(See complete list)
The Disappearing Act
By now many of us have heard of the bees disappearing. Scientists, the media and people in the know have been all abuzz about this phenomena they named Colony Collapse Disorder. (CCD) It seemingly came out of nowhere and since its abrupt appearance in 2005, it has been affecting millions and millions of bees all over the world. It is characterised by the disappearance of worker bees that leave behind a queen, a few attendants, and maybe a few drones. Basically abandoned, the infected are left to wither and die with a hive full of honey.
There have been many different theories floating around as to the cause of Colony Collapse and there has been much finger pointing. Many of the fingers point to our reliance on the pesticides and chemical fertilizers essential to our large commercial food production and the increasing use of Genetically Modified crops.
There has been evidence to support tracheal mites and varroa mites, known threats to bees. Some have proposed Nosema; a fungus as the cause, while others suggest it may be a virus such as Israeli acute paralysis.
Some are even blaming the commercial bee industry itself. Saying that the stress the hives undergo during frequent moves on trucks – typical of the way large commercial farms operate are helping to cause CCD. It should be said that smaller bee operations and hobbyists have reported less occurrence of this devastating disorder, this is probably due to the genetic diversity that smaller hives tend to have.
I personally think it’s a combination of many different factors and it’s a sign of modern civilization’s thirst for utter dominance over nature. Our total disharmony with our wild roots is catching up to us. Our disregard is showing and the signs are everywhere, not just in bees. We are being given a rather stern warning that we should heed.
Save the Bees
And how do we save the bees? I’m no scientist. I am just a backyard gardener with a yen for the planet. Yes, I care but what can I really do personally? What can we all do?
The best action you can take to benefit honey bees is to not use pesticides and if you must use pesticides try not to use them at mid-day when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar. Try to use natural fertilizers instead of chemical ones.
Plant a large number of native nectar producing plants particularly in the colors pink, purple, and blue. Some plants to consider are red clover, alfalfa, foxglove, bee balm, and joe-pye weed. ( See complete list of plants)
And put in a good word for our friend the bee. They get bad press. At the very least people just don’t care about bees. Some people hate bees and others are afraid and justifiably so, in some cases. (See Africanized bees)
But for the most part most of us will never encounter any killer bees. Just the garden variety, the cute fuzzy buzzy bees busy with helping transform our world into a garden; one flower at a time. Leave them to their important task. They mean no harm to you and will only use their stinger in self-defense. They are gentle creatures. If you encounter a hive in a natural area, leave it alone. We are meant to coexist with bees and we can as long as we learn to respect them for what they are and what they do.
We must change our attitudes about bees if they are to survive. The facts remain that while the number of bee keepers have been decreasing, the number of companies specializing in the removal of unwanted hives is on the rise.
Love them, hate them or fear them… we need them.
As the world population swells over the coming decades demand for food will surely increase. We will need not only the bees to help feed us but we will need to rethink our role on the planet. We’ll have to realise that we need to foster a cooperation with nature as well as our neighbors. We’re all in this together. You, me, the bees… the whole world. By saving the bees, we are in essence saving ourselves.
I dug in the dirt today. It was nice to get back into the soil after a long winter. I feel a profound connectedness to the natural world and it is in this sort of work that emphasizes that to me. I feel the pulsating energy of life bursting out in all directions. It is a comforting presence this wild sentience of the natural world.
It is an ancient wisdom this knowledge of the land. Our ancestor’s once relied on this essential knowledge of the earth. Progress of modern civilization has left most people especially city dwellers unnaturally detached from the natural world.
Exposure to the nature was once so commonplace, but times have changed and we’ve changed with them.
Are we losing our naturalness?
In his book “The Nature Principle’ Richard Louv calls it Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv defines nature deficit disorder as an atrophied awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us.
The author explains and quite passionately that “The traditional ways that humanshave experienced nature are vanishing.” which greatly affects our health and well-being. He evokes The Nature Principle which states “that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being and survival.”
Louv sites example after example of scientific studies backing up his well thought out claim. He brings up the validity of green exercise and it’s proven enhancement of mood and self-esteem while reducing feelings of anger and depression.
Louv refers to a study which found that humans living in landscapes that lack trees or other natural features undergo patterns of social, psychological and physical breakdowns that are similar to those observed in animals that have been deprived of their natural habitat.
This should be of no surprise to any animal of the human variety reading this.
I remember growing up in the Seventies and Eighties. I remember being outside, if the weather was nice, we’d be outside all day. The streets and yards and parks were full of kids running and playing. These days it seems that all the kids are inside, tapping on one screen or another. With all the good that the digital age has brought, we have paid for it; this pixel existence we call progress.
We are losing our natural intelligence; knowing the signs of nature. Nature is becoming quite unnatural for many of us, myself included.
Where once our ancestors roamed the wild land, living as one with the planet in an equitable balance with natural world, modern humans set out to conquer and conquer we have. We control our physical surroundings to the point to where we can bring day to night and water and life to where none exists.
Humans have progressed out beyond the Earth. We can harness the power of the microscopic and the macroscopic. We have cured diseases and built bridges and dams and power plants….We are a powerful race with much to accomplish, and much to lose.
We have polluted ourselves and our world, always in a constant battle of who will control: humankind or nature. Now nature is fighting back and I can only wonder and hope for the best.
And I do hope for the best and I do have hope for the future. I see it in the eyes of a child fascinated with a ladybug in the backyard, a teenager taking water samples at a local restoration project. I see it in the experienced hands of the citizen gardener, the urban naturalist and the amateur botanist. There are success stories, more and more everyday.
We all share this love for nature and it’s up to us, each one of us to get back what we have lost, restore our naturalness and teach our children how to coexist with technology and nature together. These concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive.
I recommend reading this excellent book “the Nature Principle” by Richard Louv and then get moving, even if it’s a five-minute walk in the neighborhood, it’s a start and all it takes is that first step to get going…. better yet bring a friend and save our naturalness one step and one friend at a time.
I worry about our future. I wonder if our machines will become more natural to us than our own humanness. I see it time and time again and more and more all the time. People ignoring one another in public. Turning the other way. Looking right past a person, almost denying someone’s existence.
I see people on their phones. Talking away to some distant person, ignoring the one in front of them. Be it the checker who’s bagging your groceries, the person at the counter of the post office, your dinner companions.
I see these space cadets walking down the street, in the street, eyes cast down on their little box of insanity. Ignoring the real world of real people, real streets with real cars on them. Engrossed in some distraction on the screen, some vitally important game or text that cannot wait. People endlessly texting or tapping or something or another. Thumbs flipping away, eyes glazed over, mind placid and unchallenged.
We are an instant generation. Our ancestors were forced to have patience. Life generally works that way. But we humans have perverted the system. What used to take time and hard work, now takes an instant. The minute itself stretches and contracts depending on the situation. We are a race that can spend hours upon hours, slack-jawed staring at a screen and still have a hard time waiting 60 seconds for a convenience store burrito.
How much have we lost already? We of the quick and convenient. That human knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Homespun talents. Hardscrabble necessities. How to grow your own food, how to darn a sock, make a quilt, pluck a chicken.
And knowledge of a more ancient wisdom: The healing power of plants, the power of belief and living at one with the earth instead of against it; as if it were some sort of adversary. The power to walk in the woods without making a sound or leaving a trace.The wild arts. How to make a fire, how to live off the land.
I know its easy for me to say; to judge. Do I have any of these practical talents? Not really. Beyond my urbanized knowledge of plants and animals through books and gardening in my backyard, I am pretty much useless in the real woods. If I were stranded alone in the true wilderness, the odds would be against me.
Our human civilization, our very existence is dependant on “progress”. Always upward and onward. Always a new hill or people to conquer. A mountain to climb, a resource to be exploited. We have colonised, revolutionised and lost our sights and priorities, maybe even our collective minds as we rape and pillage and steal from the future generations, who will have no choice but to try to live in the mess we’ll leave behind.
We have lost our way. We are losing our humanity. We are losing our collective soul, we are losing ourselves. And it is ourselves who we need to conquer not nature.
This reckless attitude we humans have taken toward nature. This need to be dominant over nature, this very human need to conquer no longer serves us as it once had. Nature is fighting back. All the lies and ad campaigns can no longer hide this from us. We are “progressing” ourselves right down the road to extinction. Is this our future? Many believe it is.
It seems the one’s in charge on this planet are in race to use up what is left and get it all before everyone else can. Our beautiful Planet Earth has become a commodity, for sale to the highest bidder. But our planet, our mother, belongs to us all.
We are being sold outand generations upon generations will hate us for it. They will ask why. Why did we just sit back and let this all happen? What will our answer be?
“America was once a paradise of timberland and stream but it is dying because of the greed and money lust of a thousand little kings who slashed the timber all to hell and would not be controlled and changed the climate and stole the rainfall from posterity.” **Don Marquis (1935)**
This morning I was rewarded with a moment lovely in its simplicity and rich in the beauty of life. I watched for several minutes a Ruby throated hummingbird darting in and out of the pineapple sage. It’s tiny wings flapping at amazing speed, visiting each colorful stalk, drinking in the nectar of the brilliant scarlet flowers. Hummingbirds are some of my favorite garden visitors. These last days of October are a flurry of activity by humans as well as our animal friends in the wild and the not so wild.
I spent much of this beautiful day in the garden. I find peace here working with Mother Nature. I feel part of a greater whole that fills me with a calm serenity that is electric and full of life.
That is my garden to me. I call it my sanctuary and it truly is. I share my sanctuary with a few humans but mostly I share it with a cornucopia of lifeforms, from the smallest microbe in the soil to the squirrels and the birds and butterflies. This place is truly alive.
I have spent the better part of a decade planting and shaping this place. I have made my share of mistakes but I have learned from them. It is much easier in the long run to work with nature than against it. Some believe that when a gardener welcomes wildlife into the garden, he or she is asking for troublesome pests as well as pretty butterflies. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nature exists in balance, Mother Nature provides to all; predator and prey. A garden in balance is in harmony with all. By working with nature we reap many benefits and so do the wild lifeforms that visit our yards. There is much we can do and every little bit helps.
My garden is teeming with life and it is by no accident. My obsession with plants is deep and true. I must have hundreds upon hundreds of types and kinds that spring up throughout the year. Many are native plants to my region which is the Pacific Northwest. Many are flowers that are appealing to bees and insects and nectar rich providing food for hummingbirds and others.
I see it as my mission as a gardener, as a lover of the land and nature to do my small part in helping the flora and fauna of our fantastic planet. In this I feel that my garden is not only a sanctuary to me but to many. Urban gardens can provide a refuge for many species that have been forced out of their natural habitats. Our wild areas are vanishing and we gardeners have a huge role to play. Our urban and not so urban gardens link up making a larger habitat for wildlife.
No space is too small. A potted plant on a back patio or a window box planted with the right plant can provide food all year.
No effort is too small. There are many ways to help. It can be as easy or as complicated as you choose. Typically wildlife have three basic needs, the essentials; shelter, water and food.
Three Essentials For Wildlife
A large Evergreen shrub can provide shelter for many species as can other types of plant life such as climbers. A pile of logs or rocks can serve as shelter to many ground dwelling species. Leave a bit of leaf litter on the ground to protect overwintering insects. Simply leaving a wild corner of the yard can help.
Water is essential for all life but it can become a scarce commodity for wildlife in the city. A pond or bird bath can spell welcome relief for the thirsty. A plastic plant saucer with a few stones on the bottom filled with clean water could be a lifeline for many.
Use plants native to your particular region. Create biodiversity with as many varieties as possible. There are a number of plant species that provide food for wildlife. From nectar to pollen to seeds and berries. Once a flower has bloomed, typically gardeners remove the spent seedhead. This also removes a valuable winter food source for birds. A bit of untidiness in the garden is no crime, in fact a more natural appearance can be quite comely and you will be rewarded time and time again with the wonder of nature beckoning at your back door.