RSS

Tag Archives: being better

This Is Not a Garden: Thoughts on Ecology and Immigration

I’m taking a series of gardening classes and this first one is about ecology. My brain is out of practice at paying attention to an instructor for three hours, and it’s already decided this first session is not what I came for. I’m consumed with figuring out how to grow more than three tomatoes a year and I can’t see how learning about ecosystems is going to help. My mind tries to wander off into some other odd territory.

To stay focused, I dutifully draw my own version of this triangle the instructor is discussing, explaining what kinds of plants will thrive in what sort of situation. As I finish, something clicks. Not about plants, but about humans.

Yes, I get how the adaptable plants win in a harsh environment. Witness the dessert cactus, the marshy sea grass and the northern lichens.

In places of havoc and tragedy, where death is frequent and unpredictable, I can see how plants that put most of their energy into procreation survive as a species. Ferns, ground covers like clover, and the common dandelion persist amid fires and flood.

I’ve labeled the top of my triangle “lucky plants” but these are not the instructor’s words. The top triangle is a well kept garden, given plenty of water, sunshine and fertile soil. The instructor says if you remove human care, the plants will not all stay in their neat rows in the proportions the humans have selected. Some will thrive and some will dwindle, and which does what is determined by how aggressive the plant is. Yes, in a place where life is easy, over time the more aggressive plants win.

I think humans have some sense of this and, to our detriment, some of us have taken to applying this philosophy to our politics. Allow me to explain with a diagram.

True, we have our own societies which have adapted to harsher climates around the world. The dessert, the far north and the Australian Outback all present challenges. When the situation is extreme enough, human populations face little competition for their niche.

Yes, historically, populations at the mercy of ongoing wars, and of natural disasters like frequent floods, wide-spread disease or famine, have tended to have more offspring, in hopes of having some survive.

It’s at the top of the triangle where I think we run into trouble.

First, I don’t think we begin to understand how the plant kingdom is interconnected and really works. So, this particular view of ecology may not be fair or accurate as far as plants are concerned. But even if it was ….

…. we’re not plants. We lack the gift of the plant kingdom, to obtain all we need from the sun and the soil. In return for having to devour other life to stay alive, we get mobility. With that comes the chance to rapidly alter our locations and to shape our environment.

We’ve got these terrific brains that get us in all sorts of trouble, but also allow us to improve our landscape and increase our resources. We can think our way into trouble, but we can also think our way out of it.

We have hearts. I don’t mean in the literal sense, though those are great, too. We have empathy and compassion and somewhere deep inside a sense of the way we are all interconnected. In our souls, we don’t want a life of ease at the expense of having others suffer. We aren’t oak trees crowding out the pines or killing off the grass. We can pretend otherwise, but a healthy human feels sadness at another’s loss.

We need to understand that we don’t live in a garden and we don’t have to beat others off with a stick lest they try crowd us out of it. We need to build our policies based on the philosophy of being entirely capable of working with others to make the our environment better and safer for all. With the sense and compassion that are our birthright as a species, we could have a planet in which we all thrive. So put those sticks away.

Class is ending and I gather up my notes and doodles. No, nothing in today’s class is going to help me grow more tomatoes. However, I think I might have a great idea for my blog.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 21, 2018 in being better, oneness, peace

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Face Painting for World Peace

photo(2)Some of the events in my novels were inspired by real life occurrences, some came from dreams or daydreams and others are a melange of stories told to me by others. I suspect this is the case for most writers. A few of my tales, however, happened almost the way I tell them. One such narrative is Lola’s realizing how running the face painting booth at her children’s grade school changed her life.

This is autobiographical. I was raised in a small town filled with only northern Europeans, loved by adults who were at best distrustful of others. Education taught me that tolerance was the way to go. But the mind can conclude what it will; it is harder for the heart, for anyone’s heart, to feel comfortable reaching beyond how one was raised.

It was the south. It was barely two decades after the civil rights movement and it was a world in which most adults of all ethnic groups felt distrust. When confronted with any human who didn’t share my ancestry, I was awkward and nervous. I wanted to do the right thing, but had no clue how to relate to anyone who didn’t look like they could have grown up with me. Then I had children of my own, and off they went to school in a very different world than mine had been.

It brings me pride that my own kids were far more oblivious to variety in human appearance than I ever was. Watching them helped me. But in the end it was their classmates who helped me the most. The other children at their school — the children whose ancestors hailed from South Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia — they managed to teach me to recognize our common humanity as they spoke to me through their love of flowers and ninja turtles. It sounds silly, but sometimes the truth is. As I painted scary snakes and colorful rainbows on their skin, I earned their respect and their smiles and I became a different person.  A better one.

photo(1)Decades have passed and I am in the process of cleaning out the home I have lived in for years. It’s been a little painful, forcing myself to part with keepsakes as I make my way through attics and closets. Last week I found these — signs for my booth from over the years.

I need to keep these, I thought. This is an important part of me. “You’ve got to be kidding,” my husband said, looking at my pile of big, dilapidated poster boards. He was right. These did not need to be hauled across the country with us.

“Take a picture of them,” my daughter suggested. Brilliant. Today, a picture is never lost,  particularly if you post it to your blog and tell the world.

Hey. Look at this. It might seem silly but these aren’t as trivial as they look. They taught me a lesson that has made my life so much richer.  And then I chose to retell my own story of this awakening of the heart through my character Lola. And Lola, well, Lola is going to take what I learned and she’s going to write an article about how face painting could help us find our way to a more peaceful society and with that kernel Lola is going to go out there and try to change the world. No, she is going to change to world.

Luckily for our over-stuffed, rented storage area, I don’t need the real posters anymore. I carry their message in my heart, where it belonged all along.

For more thoughts on letting go, check out with a breath of kindness blow the rest away on my y1 blog. Also check out Kurt Brindley’s blog Relating to Humans. You’ll find a more personal account of this story on his page on Race Issues.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2015 in being better, empathy, oneness, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: