Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

Gardeners' Work

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

The other day, on a glorious green morning, I thought of that poem by poet/essayist/farmer Wendell Berry (bio here and discussion here). The BP gulf oil gusher was continuing (and continues), adding to the dead zone caused in part by nitrates from farmers' fields in my own region; and my daughter had mentioned that a young soldier in Afghanistan she skypes with told her he'd been shot (though safe--protected by his armor), and spoke of the fear that accompanies night missions. Thinking of these things, Berry's words came to mind.

It is one of my favorite poems because it speaks of the work that we gardeners do; and by gardeners I also mean organic farmers, naturalists, biologists, ecologists, conservationists--all those who tend the living earth. Our work is work of peace and work of faith. We create beauty and help things grow, despite war, disaster and despair. We sow seed, with faith that plants will grow, that flowers will be beautiful, that we and our children will eat. We strive to understand other species with whom we share the earth and work to make sure that they, as well as we, have a place. We learn and share our knowledge. This work is sometimes disguised by overt and covert cultural messages, is sometimes subverted by issues of race, class, aesthetics, and politics. Yet it goes on, in all times and all places, helping to mend what has come asunder in the world.

Related Posts: 
(GMO) Alfalfa and Our Future
National Poetry Month in the Garden
Meteorological Winter
Walt Whitman, Deep Ecologist (Poetry Month 2013)


Anonymous said…
Dear Adrian, I was most moved to read this very thought provoking posting. However, you are right for although we appear to be surrounded by disaster, there is always room for hope and that hope is so often to be found in the work we as individuals do in our gardens.

And, Adrian, thank you so much for your very kind comment left on my 'Explanatory Note'. It was most thoughtful of you and much appreciated. Thank you too for your comment on my latest posting and to which I have replied.
Hello Edith Hope, Thanks for visiting, and glad you are posting again.
Anonymous said…
Adrian, Thanks for these thoughts. The idea that, in gardening, I am somehow helping to restore balance to the world fills me with a sense of peace. -Jean
Adrian, thank you for this post! I agree with what Edith and Jean wrote here. Sometimes, however, I look at the situation differently: we are in war, our soldiers are dying, but we are admiring our gardens, watching sports, dancing... Are we getting used to disasters? .....
Thank you so much for your comment on my poetry post. That feeling of yours might be very true. I heard long ago that great poetry, great music, etc. are born in countries where there is suffering.It is a complicated subject... Anyway, I appreciate your thought! Happy teaching and happy gardening to you!I am going to check the links which you posted.
Jean, I've found gardening helps people stay balanced, too.

and Tatyana, hope you enjoyed reading about Wendell Berry.
Anonymous said…
Wendell Berry's poem is no more touching or poetic than your prose,which reminds us to hold close our earth connections and our hope. Thank you for both.
Benjamin Vogt said…
Yes Yes Yes!!! Nicely said!
Unknown said…
Thank you for this moving post, Adrian. It is one of my favorite postings I've read . . . on any site.
M., Benjamin and Thomas, I am humbled by your praise. Thank you.