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Gardening for Heart

"Extreme weather events." When I read — in Bill McKibben's The End of Nature — about effects of global warming , it seemed ... well, if not hypothetical, still somewhere in the future. So I was surprised by the horror of hurricane Katrina. I've been trying to learn to be responsible, to pay attention, to see the big picture ... and I've been caught with my head in the sand. Now I have the ominous feeling it's later than anyone imagined.

Maple syrup production is already declining in New England as the weather warms. Skiing's next. EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman says it will take ten years to clean up the pollution in New Orleans enough to make it habitable again. McKibben says he expects the city will be rebuilt — once — but predicts it will be ruined again. What other parts of the life we're used to, have we already lost, but just don't know it yet?

To pay better attention, I need to strengthen my courage. For me (don't laugh) this means the garden. What enables me to cope with ugliness, is beauty. What enables me to face the damage to our planetary ecosystem ... is the gifts it still gives me, inspiring my passion to heal it. What helps me pay attention to suffering, is feeling the connection we all have, all earthlings: what truly benefits others, ultimately benefits me.

It's time to reexamine the shortsightedness of business as usual. To define security in terms of the interconnected web of nature. To dare to put energy into matters of the heart: beauty, compassion, health, community.

All over my garden, tall native New England Asters are blooming. Purple ones flop over a path in the back yard, and mingle with two volunteers: bronze-leaved perilla, and tall red nicotiana. In the middle, white garlic chives are going to seed; I hope they will self-seed too (they have a reputation for it). Lots of bees and a sphinx moth bustle about. One big butterfly, orange and brown, rests on a purple flower, ragged wings flexing gently, soaking up sun.

In spring I weeded this bed; that may have helped these volunteers come, since perilla and nicotiana both require light to germinate. Recently, however, I've been spending my small budget of bending-over on the front yard: back here it's a weedy tangle. Still so much life, so much beauty ... makes me pause, and smile, and breathe more deeply.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 30 September 2005

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