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Nurturing Illusion

May 22, 2014

imageNature v. Nurture: right up there with Chicken v. Egg – I hear the rain fall after a freakish month of wrestling my landscape into submission and I feel relieved. I had just planted the only living thing I can grow from seeds in an arcane place – Moon Flowers – and somehow the rain on them validates this planting.

Being asked to be on a garden tour takes real world ego-justification and swaddles it completely in the caprice of the natural world. Like someone who experiences basketball via their NCAA bracket, I am connected to farmers who bet everything that nature will not screw them

My site is a glacial moraine – a place where, 20,000 years ago, a wave of ice hundreds of feet high carried millions of rocks, and well, dropped them when it all melted away. But before they dropped them, the glacier pushed all the soil away like a bulldozer and crushed those rolled rocks under its gigatonnage to create a surface of complete inhospitality to most plant life.

When we built our home 30 years ago we had to bring in large amounts of virgin sandy fill to accept our septic waste over this bed of interlocking rocks, as it was impenetrable. Nature wants life to happen, so bull briars, poison ivy and the occasional tree found crevices to split the rocks with roots – so our land was a huge mat of 12 foot high concertina wire vines over other vines that made my skin explode in running sores of excruciating itch.

This moraine created a hill facing due north. Those trees have grown high and exclusive, favored in their dominance via grazing sheep around them, eating the competition for a hundred years, and grew to a monstrously beautiful height and canopy that effectively kills most all of the natural light that could access the northerly slope. The moraine addressed a salt marsh, whose tidal flood of salt poisoning further limited the list of viable plants to a tiny few miserable, nasty species – oh and the saturated edge of the moraine facilitates rainwater ponding that spawns vicious insects, some actually capable of ripping little bits of flesh off your body.

What a great place to create over 20 gardens.

Soil was either created from sifted roots ripped from between rocks or with manure and peat moss and endless bags of Plant Tone organic fertilizer or brought in. Buck wheat hulls are applied every year to continually build up some soil reservoir, and all mowing is mulched in. Chemicals, up until a month ago, were eschewed, not because of some ethos, but they require more chemicals applied regularly, and, like weeding, that regularized time dump is something I just cannot do…I may be crazy but I am not stupid.

Filter fabric was laid under every garden bed, as swamp maples and bull briars viciously invade every source of nutrition in this wasteland. Every created bed (versus naturalized landscape) is heavily edged to keep plants out and is French Intensive Bed deep (20″-24″) to allow super dense-packed plantings to pre-empt weeding.

30 years have seen genocide of all but the most dumbly vicious or gaudily reproductive species: aguga, swamp iris, loose strife, wild oats, hostas are fighting invasive fire with invasive fire.

Why this desire to spend thousands of hours undoing, very temporarily, a natural order of 20,000 years? The belief that nurture could overcome nature. It is a lie. Nurture has to use nature to get what humans want.

Despite huge dollars, endless years, millions upon millions of minds every doctor I know says the same thing: medicine, science, nurture cures nothing: those applications are simply the stagecraft that creates a scene where billions of years of natural processes can be brought to bear to effect the results humans want. Doctors do not clot blood, regenerate cells, grow hair – what is already in each of our cells does that, as long as the doctors can weed out the things that inhibit and fertilize the things that help the desired natural process.

We humans bob like a cork on a sea we did not create, cannot control, and only understand the topmost few molecules of the surface we can see. My garden grows because I can rip out things I do not want, stick in things I want, replace the dead with fresh troops, ever more vicious and invasive until there is a brief moment where a standoff happens – temporarily – and what I want can be seen and loved.

Like our children, who we fertilize, weed around and give the tools to survive, these plants ultimately live or die not because of what I did, but because of what nature made of them, millennia before I got the bright idea to plant them.

When a choirboy our family loved died a dozen years ago, it was not because doctors failed: it was because inevitable nature followed the path it created for itself simply because we humans had yet to find the another path for nature to keep that boy alive.

When ego is invloved we humans believe we “deserve” want we want because we care so much and try so hard: that often works: faith in what we cannot know works – but not because we are “owed” a thing – its because we happened to weed out and encourage the right things to happen. Our best guesses worked out. In this one month before Judgment Day, I am subverting every natural principal by weeding like mad and using the arboreal equivalent of anabolic steroids to create a crescendo of plant ecstasy for all to view on June 1.

But I have no illusions. I am doing nothing, save clear some paths of vine and shade and apply chemicals and to allow plants to unnaturally grow and flower because their little bodies were hard wired to take advantage of a lack of competition and those chemicals.

Yes I am the Pusher-Man. There will be a full-on Cold Turkey Detox come June 2nd – no 12 Step Program provided. A month of freakish ego-fueled effort is applied to 20,000 years of soil prep and untold zillions of years of whatever came before it -just like the last 30 years.

The trick is to understand that I am no different than the poison ivy that rips my skin apart or the loose strife I plant and then mow to keep at bay. We are part of this, not an alien presence, we just have a sense of what we are doing. We can see the unfathomable folly and intricacy and think we are controlling it. but in the end we really control nothing, we just use what we have been given and see what happens.

And hope.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maryzahl permalink
    May 22, 2014 4:44 pm

    Delightful, and oh-so-true! Thought about you today as I was zipping up and down I-95 and The Merritt. Getting rid of all the mauve paint and wallpaper and most of the ugly light fixtures. I now know most of the nearby Home Depots. But, no illusions…this is only cosmetic.

    Wish we were back here for June 1st, but not able to come til mid-month.

    I had a long talk with Nancy H yesterday. Sounds like a pretty steady decline for our Ali. 😦 Love to you and Liz , Mary

    Sent from my iPhone



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