Warning--this post has no stats, no links, no proof. Just thoughts, experience, belief. Unfortunately, belief is something easily poo-pooed in a culture that more and more is cynical toward groups--whether that be a religion, a bunch of garden writers, or a corporation. We have good reasons for cynicism; look at our federal government / special interest figure heads. Look at your last girlfriend who left you for a Packers fan.
As the conversation over the National Wildlife Federation and Scotts joining to save wild spaces and get kids outside simmers down into more rational emotion, I feel full of guilt. My own, and others. Am I a nut for believing that we have happier, healthier, smarter people if our home landscapes had more wild habitat and less lawn? That depression and anxiety and ADHD would ease? That our kids, following a butterfly or making mud pies might be more creative, abstract, and fearless thinkers in whatever profession they choose? That they'd be more effective leaders? Shouldn't I just shut up?
Do you remember playing in the mud? With sticks? Do you ever sit and play with sticks now? Grab a piece of mulch and pretend it's a bulldozer? Am I the only one? Maybe I played with my Lego sets too long past high school.
Homeowners are guilted into thinking they need a pristine lawn or landscape. Anything wild is wrong, you won't fit in, people walking their dogs will give you the evil eye. Whole neighborhood associations have policies towards stringent landscape appearances of green earth and bulbous boxwood. Where did this come from? A religious-based fear of the wilderness? The Puritanical idea that nature tests our morality? And if it does, we've failed. In our attempt to exorcise personal demons over class, race, wealth, sex, and intense emotions, we do everything we can to recreate the environment to what we need or want, to what our ideal is, pillaging as we go. We've cut down the forest to make it a savanna so we can see the predators coming at us, but now we are even more wary and uncertain. We are even more afraid of each other (who's the predator now?).
I was just thinking this morning about my Mennonite family, burned and torutred during the Spanish inquisition, forced to leave the Netherlands for Prussia, forced to leave again for Russia, then again centuries later in 1874 for America. Each time they relocated they rebuilt their villages and homes in the same way. They kept their culture close to them, and remade the land into familiar ideals that helped preserve their identity. This is why the prairie vanished so swiftly from Kansas and Oklahoma--a sense of home, not of adaptation or patience. And perhaps a sense of guilt, a built in wanderlust that seems innately human. We are nomadic and it hurts us, keeps us from the world and from our deeper selves. (If you want readings on these environmentally philosophical thoughts, look at The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx, This Sacred Earth by Roger Gottlieb, anything by Lawrence Buell.)
Lawn care companies make us feel guilty for weeds in the lawn, for brown lawn, for not fertilizing and mowing and watering religiously. At the hardware stores it's 50% tools and 50% lawn care products, especially from April to July.
I don't use a drop of chemical anything, and I've only been gardening for four years--I just dove in and went trial by fire. I've created a habitat of mostly native plants, of various sizes and textures and blooming times, and the diversity brings in good bugs who eat bad bugs, insects who feed baby birds, and seeds that feed migrating and winter birds. Everything supports each other. Each year more life rushes in like a broken dam. I know I spend less time in my landscape than my neighbors because I can hear it from inside my house--the guy next door mows 2-3 times per week and waters every morning. The folks across the street mow at least as often, edging and blowing for hours on a once-tranquil Saturday morning, wasting away their weekends. (Do they really enjoy it I wonder? Even when it's 90?)
Maybe you see this as a judgement, but I see it as an opportunity--I spend about 2 days in March cutting down the garden, and that's it for the year. Maybe 1 day I'll top dress with compost. My mulch is cut down perennials. My joy is sitting back on Saturdays, watching the three-dimensional life swoop in and out, crawl around, I sitting in the deck chair sipping lemonade, letting my thoughts take me wherever and grounding me, all the while trying my best to tune out the whirl of fertilizer spreaders, the chug of sprinklers, and the vibrations of mowers spewing exhaust my way. Actually, I don't even go outside on weekends anymore. There's no point--everyone is outside working. I mean relaxing.