Sunday, February 19, 2017

Daffodils and a Hollow Nature

Daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, and tulips do not signify spring to me. Here in the central and northern Great Plains, that role usually falls to pasque flower, which blooms sometime in late March to mid April. While flower bulbs from half a world away may be an aesthetic delight to us, for wildlife and ecosystems they are often as devoid of function as plastic bottles. In garden design circles the belief is that aesthetics is enough because it (beauty) engages us with nature. But that nature has often felt hollow to me -- it's how I feel walking a rose garden or hosta collection, places for us alone, so insular, so absent in a time of climate change and mass extinction. Every garden and every plant should welcome as many species as possible, help us learn one another's language and culture, connect us to our homeplaces, and open the door to compassion that puts other's needs before our own. If a garden is primarily for me, the garden ceases to be a place of hope.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Privilege in the Ethical Garden

Our species has long had privilege over other species. Slowly, our privilege has begun to feel like a right -- something preordained. We can see this with white middle and upper class privilege. When anyone starts talking about the rights of others -- the poor, the immigrant, the transgender -- suddenly equality feels like discrimination for those with privilege. Perhaps the same thing happens when we discuss equality for other species and their landscapes. When we're asked to think critically about our privilege as a species -- where it comes from, what effect it has on others -- we feel marginalized, just like we've made others feel marginalized. And when we're asked to garden with native plants, and for the goal of helping others -- of creating equality -- humans feel attacked and minimized. And yet, there are those who feel empowered by empowering others, ensuring the rights of the poor, the immigrants, the transgender, the bees, the birds. They see equality not as a threat but a grand opportunity to practice our deepest-held beliefs as a compassionate culture and species. 

What happens when we privilege others? How do our ethical codes expand? What happens when we step back from our tunnel vision and expand the viewpoint to the perspective of others? What do you need to thrive? What do you need to be healthy? What do you need to be happy? Your thriving, your health, your happiness is mine in spades. And this is why when we garden for others our gardens will transcend their origins, and in some small way, instruct and be instructed by a larger social ethics and social justice.