I love trees. There is a particular peace that comes from resting in the shade of the widespread limbs of an old tree on a warm sunny day. Something in us must recognise our interdependence with these earth bound beings. Even when we force them to grow in completely different climates, impression them in traps of concrete and starve them of adequate food, water and social interaction trees still strive to live. In this their will to live is not so unlike our own. What rests on the branches of worlds trees though, is the balance of all life on earth.
Take a trip back to high school science and remember how we learnt about plants producing oxygen as part of the photosynthetic reaction which uses energy from the sun along with water and carbon dioxide to create food (sugars). Much of the oxygen produced by plants is released into the atmosphere which helps to maintain the level of oxygen necessary for human life.
Now take a moment and breathe in and follow the oxygenated air as it enters your lungs and diffuses into your blood stream and through the body where it used in your cells to break down sugars for energy. Breathe out and follow the air leaving your lungs and diffusing into the atmosphere, taking with it carbon dioxide toxic to you but vital to a plants method of producing energy. So in this way we are intimately connected with the plants around us. As Margaret Bates poetically states:
“Between a human and a tree is the breath. We are each other’s air.”
The oxygen is the gift of the trees around as is the sun’s energy that plants store as sugars in leaves, fruits and tubers which we can use as a source of energy for ourselves. All animals, including us humans, are reliant on the energy created by plants. Despite all the gifts plants give us we remain staggeringly ignorant of their needs. So we expend immense amount of energy trying to control and force them into growing in ways we deem best from vast monocultures to rigorously manicured garden plantings.
For a society that supposedly prizes efficiency we actually expend of a lot of needless energy and other resources in pursuing ways of living that are incongruent with the rest of life. My neighbour is currently having lawn put in in her place and I am astounded at the work it takes to create what is effectively a green carpet. The digging up of topsoil and replacing it with more suitable soil, then the laying of this rolls of grass along with special fertiliser to help the grass establish along with plenty of watering. Once it’s showing even the tiniest bit of life, pull out the noisy fossil fueled lawn mover and cut it down to the perfect inch of green. Then repeat ad nauseam this cycle of water and cut. In particular all this watering at a time when this the driest state in the driest continent is experiencing a particularly dry summer, highlights how out of touch we suburbanites are with the wider Earth.
In my experience grass seems to grow just fine by itself and its more a case of keeping it out of everything else. Sure it might be patchy and brownish in summer but why does that matter? To realign our civilisation with what this Earth offers we will have to relearn how to work with a plant’s nature and adapt our notions of beauty to fit in with what a plant is capable of doing in a particular environment.
Sitting quietly, doing nothing.
Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.