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Arrogance or Awe

Proud. Yes, I was: I would brag about how I'd planted a Pitcher's sage in a climate zone not recommended for it, because I was so sure of the super drainage of my sandy soil. And it did well for six years ... until this wet spring. Last week it had disappeared.

In the same bed, a New Belgium aster showed only bare stems with tattered brown rags hanging from them. The artemisia pontica was a gray shade of brown: the delicate filigree of its leaves a depressing ghost of its former silver beauty. And the lambs' ears, though a mildew-resistant variety, had plenty of dead brown leaves at ground level. Victims of the "melting-out" fungus, Drechslera poae.

This is the wettest growing season I can remember. Precipitation in the Northeast has increased 3.3 inches (8%) during the past century, with the greatest change since the 1970s. Global warming changes weather patterns. But the changes are complex, including more "extreme weather events." Harder than ever to predict. I guess I won't get another Pitcher's sage.

I compounded my moisture problem by neglecting sanitation: the plants were overgrown, crowded, and choked with grass. Finally a friend helped me weed them out. The lambs' ears, cleaned up, will be okay. The artemisia had to go. The aster, now with good air circulation, I'm hoping to save.

We compound the problems of global warming by ignoring or denying it, by clinging to habits that damage our planetary life-support system. By living in the past, when we could depend on the weather to be undependable ... within limits. When Nature had a certain homeostasis, that we were too puny to affect.

In 1989, Bill McKibben warned, in The End of Nature, that we had lost that protection, that dependability of Nature. Instead, now we hold responsibility for the planet's whole ecosystem. He mourned the end of awe for something greater and more powerful than us; he feared the subjugation of the natural world to human convenience: forests only of trees gene-engineered to grow straight so they make good wood, extinction of species we know no use for....

But I think there's still something greater than the human world. I try to take appropriate responsibility, without getting caught by my human arrogance and addiction to power ... so I may be open to awe at the mystery of our interconnectedness with all Earth.

This week, new leaves are sprouting on the aster.

Photo by C.H. Clark - An aster recovers from melting-out

Text and photo © Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 29 July 2005

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