Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Garden's Land Ethic

I've been swamped organizing research for my next memoir, so TDM has been a bit quiet (and shallow I suppose). However, I do have a post up at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens that is a "thinking" post, based on some reading I've done lately. Here's the first bit:

I’m going to start off my semi philosophical / ranty / musing post with two quotes from Richard Manning’s book Grassland:

“Our science, our poetry, and our democracy fail because they lack specific information of the plants.”
“The culture of plants is the same as the culture of people.”

That last one is around a discussion of Aldo Leopold’s idea of a land ethic (and if you’ve not read A Sand County Almanac, exactly what are you waiting for?). In all my thinking and writing, and sometimes in my doing out in the garden as I plant or photograph, I’m developing a land ethic. It is not one that is in response to the land—not as a manager, caretaker, or gardener—but one of learning from the land the cycles of life, of creation, of existence beyond myself, which in turn makes me more aware of my own creation.

Recently there was a video, which I posted to my blog’s Facebook page last Friday, showing a massive swarm of starlings shifting and pulsing like bed sheets over a lake. Superimposed on the spectacle was loud music, which destroyed the birds, the lake, the moment. I wonder why we have to push ourselves so much on the world, why we can’t or won’t or don’t shut up and listen and be in it (why do college students surgically implant ear buds into their ears?). Maybe we’d be less apt to get angry, be jealous, and want something else, that promised land over the next horizon where life must be better, where we won’t be so human. Oh, the history of our pioneers....


Christopher Tidrick said...

My wife made the same comment about the murmuration video. Why did they add the music? I want to hear the birds. I listen to a great deal of music, so I don't think it struck me in such a negative way. But I understand the sentiment. A few weeks ago, while leading a pack of cub scouts on a nature hike, I stopped the group in the middle of the woods, had them close their eyes and just listen. Not sure if many of the boys -- or adults for that matter -- had ever done that before.

James said...

We had a little nature video moment in the neighborhood this afternoon as what appeared to be a family of five hawks out on a Sunday outing soared overhead in slow circles. One of the hawks when directly overhead let out an amazing shriek that quickly cut through the suburban soundtrack of lawnmowers, barking unhappy dogs and outdoor play-time two houses down. I hate to think of the music a sound person would have felt compelled to insert into that moment.

Julie Stone said...

I totally agree about the nature moment obscured with music, I can't stand hearing music when I'm outside - I want to hear the birds. When I used to be a runner, people always asked me why I never ran with an iPod. I always said I was afraid I'd miss something, like the hoot of an owl or the clacking of a Kingfisher, then they'd look at me, puzzled, like I had two heads or something.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Chris--Hey, you're a scout leader after my own heart. It's amazing we don't stop and do that every day. Insane, really.
James--I tell you what, I am overjoyed the lawnmowers stopped about two weeks ago here. That constant drone feels like a corkscrew in my brain.
Julie--I always think of it as partly a safety issue. Couldn't someone sneak up behind you and stab you or grab you if you had earbuds in?

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

I often recognize seasons by their sound. Fall gets quiet and winter is the most silent. Perhaps this explains my penchant for winter.