Nature’s Insistence and the ReWilding Within
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
When I was a relatively impressionable teenager, I remember reading a book by a sociologist named Reich I believe, titled “The Greening of America.” In it, the overly optimistic author outlined a future in which the progressive values and rich diversity of the 1960’s and early 70’s would continue and grow, with wall street executives increasingly exchanging their suit ties and dress shoes for sandals and Nehru shirts, giving their energies to green ventures that would benefit humankind and the planet. While current events continue to belie such hopes, there is indeed a visible greening, one that will one day recolor and recolonize our sterile asphalt and concrete habitats, and one that has its way in nature each Spring that thankfully comes around. Wherever you are, far north or heated south, mountains or coast, you have joined us in witnessing the uplifting seasonal changes by now.
Since my May 1st update, the bare Cottonwood trees have nicely filled out, with leaves wh0se green has the yellowish tint of arboreal youth. They show up nicely in the photograph above, taken on the trail approaching the forested line of the Anima Sanctuary proper. The comparatively barren scrubland in the foreground, gives you an idea of how the entire canyon looked prior to my moving here and initiating its protection from livestock grazing and land gobbling developers. As you’ve seen and will see in other pictures, along the river the vegetation has now spread to over a mile from this land where the greening first began.
Here we are looking downriver from the new 6th crossing, just inside the Sanctuary gate that Van, our partner in rewilding this place, has installed. None of the 100 feet tall Cottonwoods that you see, and none of the 4 species of willow were here until I made their return possible with an ornery attitude and loving heart.
These leaves are from the narrowleaf cottonwood, one of the main two varieties found here in the canyon.
The second type we have are the Fremont cottonwoods, seen here between the 6th and 7th river crossings.
In the pic above is the 7th crossing, greened out, and hard to tell the river was raging chest deep through here a month ago. Hard to tell, even, where the jeep-wide trail exits the water on its difficult and winding way to town.
The edible wild mustard has grown 2 feet tall since it first sprouted during the uncharacteristic late rains.
The local strain of Honeysuckle have prospered as well, and have just now begun blooming. How sweet it is!
The roots of the wild Grape I helped plant and spread here, continue to grow all Winter long, supporting ever longer vines tipped by fresh sprigs like we see in the pic.
Thanks to all the water they got, plants like this Ragwort are blooming early.
And acting as the strongest perfume in this heady canyon embrace, is the now leafy Currant bush. Thanks to their proliferation, walking through the mid May Sanctuary is like a trip through a pastry shop or organic fruit market.
The healing and prospering of this land and ecosystem is in part a result of our 3 decades of effort, but it was in another sense inevitable. The spirit that drives me as its care-taker is the same that drives its ever more varied selection of flora and fauna, doing my best – like the dandelion-looking Silver Puffs – to seed the world with irrepressible wildness and endless expressions of nature’s truth and beauty. It’s only right that we help the process along in every way that we can, but on the other hand it is the wondrous greening that will in the end prevail with or without us.
The exciting option, then, is to be a conscious and deliberate part of this continuing process, exceeding rigid customs and laws and imagined inadequacy the same as the plants break through layers of concrete in their hunger for life and light. There will be a “Greening of America,” one day returning the continent to its garden splendor, flowering even in the middle of our cities at the start of every Summer until then, and growing its seditious and wondrous wildness within the best of each of us.
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