Sand cherry, our earliest-blooming native shrub, along the creek that borders my formerly industrial lot.

Speaking for the Plants

Sand cherry, our earliest-blooming native shrub, along the creek that borders my formerly industrial lot. Sand cherry, our earliest-blooming native shrub, along the creek that borders my formerly industrial lot.

I usually post on this blog on Sunday evenings, between the weekend and the work week. My weekends aren’t exactly restful—I’m either on the road teaching workshops or at home tending to house-finishing and landscape restoration. Still, switching gears between weekend work and week-day work offers space to reflect.

Reflection is the point of this blog. In particular, reflection on life, both “life” as in this existence, and “life” as in the glorious range of living beings with whom we share this planet.

My well-used mattock, prying out a small but quite resistant cobble to level a bed for a flagstone. My well-used mattock, prying out a small but quite resistant rock to level a bed for a flagstone.

I had planned to write about the latter, specifically about the pollinator garden and rock garden I’m planting in my formerly bare front yard. Only I was a little too enthusiastic about that planting on Saturday, especially the mattock work. I laid a flagstone path and planted 49 shrubs, native grasses, and perennial wildflowers, in the process grubbing up enough rocks to get a good start on the rock “pavement” in one garden.

My mattox and spade relaxing after planting 33 perennials in a pollinator garden. My mattock and spade relaxing after planting 33 perennials in a pollinator garden.

Sunday I recovered enough to remember a deadline I had forgotten. I spent my shifting-gears space writing about deer and drought for a national blog-zine I contribute to, instead of writing for this blog.

No problem, I thought, I’ll write a blog post Monday evening. Only that afternoon I remembered I was registered for a Creative Mondays evening class, part of a series the City of Salida offers for our Creative District.

Is this sounding like procrastination? Could be.

Regardless, I went for a run after work and then headed to the workshop, “Creative Hustle,” taught by Susan Lander, a consultant to non-profits, and McCarson Jones, a photographer. I’m not sure what I was expecting.

What I found was a new understanding of what compels me to do this odd combination of work: writing and urban habitat restoration.

Restored mountain prairie "unlawn" on a former industrial property. Restored mountain prairie “unlawn” on a former industrial property.

It’s pretty simple: I love this numinous blue planet and all the lives on it, especially the plants, the rooted beings which sustain us all. I believe we can each make a difference, and that love is the life-saving gift our species brings to the community of this earth. My way of expressing that love is through writing and through teaching others how to restore our patch of earth and our relationship with it right at home where we live, work and play.

That realization reminded me of an interview I did years ago with Billy Frank, Jr., leader of the Nisqually Tribe in Washington State. Speaking about his work as an activist for Indian fishing rights, as well as the rights of the salmon they fish for, the salmon whose health reflects the health of the land and waters, he said,

I speak for the salmon–he is out there, swimming around; he cannot come in here and speak to you about these things. So he sent me here to speak to you. I speak for the salmon. And people listen.

(Billy Frank, Jr., died yesterday, May 5th, 2014, in Nisqually, Washington. He was 83.)

Ditch Creek, vibrant and sparkling after a decade of restoration work. Ditch Creek, vibrant and sparkling after a decade of restoration work.

Who do I speak for? Our home: Earth and all its lives, especially our often-overlooked plant neighbors, especially the native species, whose relationships with pollinators and songbirds can heal. We are all in this together, all dependent on the web of living beings—from microbes to humans and whales—with whom we share this Earth.

Many voices, many stories to tell. And each of them part of the fabric that sustains our lives too.

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