Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Audubon Nursery Workday Daydreams

Photo by Cara
I was pushing a wheelbarrow filled with pots of Bunchberries and Indian Plum up a trail at the Portland Audubon Society on Sunday. It was a mess. A beautiful mess. The trail was littered with gold, brown, and orange leaves. Ferns, lichens and mosses climbed over each other. Trees intertwined with one another, and small plants and shrubs grew in random clumps. Life giving water pooled, dripped, and beaded everywhere. Sunlight filtered through this mess setting the golds and greens aglow as it sprinkled everything with its warm energy. I was awestruck by beauty and complete lack of order.

In human landscaped environments, we have strategically placed trees, carefully mowed and fertilized grass, wood chips to keep down weeds and to set off persnickety ornamental shrubs, that are often adorned by toxic berries. “Berzo! Spit that out!” Basically we have moved our indoor aesthetics outside. You are not allowed to pick, dig, climb or otherwise disturb the property of this park “nature” in any way. In other words it's utterly boring and even somewhat stressful.

Humans need the complexities and comforts of a beautiful mess. A natural environment that is wild and free. In such a place I can feel my intellect untether from the right-angles of modern culture, my creativity leaps with wild abandon into the heaps of leaves, coming up with blue slugs and an occasional gnome, as a vole stands on hind legs looking on. I brush the gnome from my shirt and he lands in puff of leaves. An owl swoops silently, the vole grabs the gnome and tosses him into the scythe like talons. The owl screeches but cannot let go. Gnomes taste very bitter and can be dangerous. Talons pierce the gnome's soft body and crunch his bones. He whispers an incantation in ancient Gaelic and the owl’s eyes cloud over, the muscles in the feet relax and the gnome, badly hurt but alive, falls to the soft forest floor. A soft thud heralds the arrival of the owl's body.

The gnome indulged his temper and kicked the owl and winced in pain. He then retrieved his moss colored hat to his head and disappears into a rotting log. The vole squeaks in terror of the too-close owl and in fear of retribution from the gnome. He decides to make himself scarce. The owl's eyes clear, he squawks in indignation as he rights himself, and takes off in disgust.

I shake my head and take up my wheelbarrow handles.


Our home require order. Our daily lives require schedules by which all things get done and not forgotten. Our learning requires self discipline as does our physical conditioning, caloric intake, and even spiritual growth. All aspects of our lives require, demand, and need order and discipline to thrive and be fruitful.

I posit that our lives also need organic, lovely, unplanned, chaotic, natural mess. Our intellect craves relaxation in an unstructured and unproductive, messy way to fuel our imaginations and refresh our spirits. To feel God, (or divinity of choice) we need to be among his creations as he intended them to live together--in an seemingly disordered state, that is really arrangement so complex as to be undecipherable to our souped up ape-brains, but that we sense on some level is really a web of harmonious, symbiotic exchanges of nutrients and energy. From the worms enriching and aerating the soil with detritus, to alders fixing nitrogen and preventing erosion to heal a scarred land, to a conifer providing homes for insects, birds and mammals, to the microbes that make up eighty percent of the world's biomass.

Although we may not be capable of full comprehension, we can appreciate the vast intricacies, respect the power of intertwined life, and be humbled in its presence. We should reject the notion that we could possibly improve upon nature and that taming it is anything short of an insult, but move to become stewards, benefactors (through fishing, hunting, foraging), and students of this chaotic yet beautiful mess.

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