"Visitation of the wild." "Ancient rhythms of Oregon."
Biology professor David Craig's words from yesterday's Salem City Club meeting resonated with me as I spend several hours today picking up tree debris -- lots of it -- from the recent wind storm.
My wife and I are fortunate to live on ten natural acres in rural south Salem. Our large non-easy-care yard is surrounded by large fir and oak trees. If you live in the city, and think your yard is tough to maintain, imagine triple (at least) the toughness.
But here's the beauty of nature: wildness can be perceived everywhere, even in the most urban environment. Craig reminded us of that, saying that bald eagles can be seen flying over downtown Salem. If you look up.
It's the looking that is key. Seeing the wild around us with a sort of poetic eye, one that groks our intimate connection with the wildness of nature.
There came a point in my yard work today when the oft-repeated "fun" of collecting branches, putting them in a large leaf bag, dragging the bag to a disposal area in the brush, and scattering them about began to wear thin.
Even with a sip of coffee from my much-beloved Thermos mug to reward and caffeinate myself after each trip.
But sometime in the second hour those phrases Craig uttered popped into my head.
Right away, I looked upon the branches I was picking up differently. They were fallen greetings from the oak and fir trees. They were a "hello and goodbye" from the strong south winds that blew in for a while from the coast.
To the deer, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, birds, and other creatures that share our property, the branches and wind were no problem. Stuff happens in nature, in the wild. It is something to deal with, not to complain about.
We humans, my wife and I, had decided to live in a house with landscaping. The gutters fill up with leaves and pine needles. The lawn and plant beds don't look good with tree debris scattered all over.
That's our problem, not nature's problem.
Nature, The Wild, doesn't make mistakes. It just does what it has to do. In accord with, of course, laws of nature. Once my mind started down this stream of thought, picking up the branches and disposing of them felt much more pleasant.
I was, as Craig said, moving along with the "ancient rhythms of Oregon." Winds blow. Trees grow. Branches fly off. Where I was putting them, they'll soon decay and become more growth. Which reminds me...
Ten years ago I blogged about this same theme in "The Tao of tree debris," written after a large oak fell into another tree.
“What would the Tao do?” I asked myself. There had to be another way. A natural way. An immediate way. Trees fall in the forest all the time. Nature doesn’t use tarps or burn piles to get rid of the debris. Nature lets lay what has fallen down. Dead stuff soon decays into material for live stuff. I had been looking on the brush as a problem to be disposed of, rather than as a gift to be made use of. I needed a change of perspective.
...At the end of the day all the brush piles were gone. And the debris that I had scattered hither and yon was barely noticeable. I had learned how not to burn. In an afternoon I had dealt with a seemingly difficult problem—how to get rid of the damn brush—that turned out to be easily handled once I stopped considering it so much of a problem.
Life, in the guise of Fallen Tree, taught me a few things. Messes are mostly in the mind. Nature makes use of everything. Death and destruction are fodder for life and creation. Letting things lay usually is best. Renewal comes in its own fashion. It doesn’t have to be forced. There’s no need to burn what doesn’t belong. Let it find its own place to decay, and you won’t go wrong.
There is so much wisdom in wildness. For billions of years, wildness has been doing just fine, bringing our planet to the natural place we humans are enjoying now.
Which is why I get so irked when City of Salem officials turn a blind eye to wildness, choosing to destroy precious islands of Wild in urban areas. I'm thinking about the needless destruction of the U.S. Bank trees, those five beautiful, large, healthy Japanese Zelkovas that were cut down for no good reason.
When I took this photo, I told the tree I'd do everything I could to save it. (Which I did.) I felt like it was a friend, an innocent wild creature that needed saving from a clueless bank president and Public Works director.
l'm also thinking of the current fight to preserve ancient oaks and other irreplaceable trees that are slated for removal so a desolate parking lot can be built by Salem Hospital.
What the hell is wrong with the "pave it over" minded folks in this town, the City officials, Chamber of Commerce types, and corporate folks who care so much about money and power, and so little about the natural wild world that makes it possible for people to have money, power, and everything else?
It saddens me when my wife and I lose a tree, and we have many hundreds on our ten acres. In an urban area, in Salem proper, the need to preserve islands of wildness is even more pressing. They don't have to be huge, like a giant park.
One beautiful tree. One bird of prey flying overhead. Any visitation from the wild, anyway we feel touched by the ancient rhythms of Oregon -- so precious. Thank you, David Craig, for reminding me of that.