Archive for June, 2010

Mulberry Wise: Garnering Lessons for Humans From a Tree – By Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Mulberry Wise

Garnering Lessons For Humans From a Tree

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

One of the most sacred places to either ponder or pray has got to be outside, under a temple of overhanging ponderosa pines, surrounded by the beauty of creation.  And some of the best places to learn about life are far from school, in swim holes and Indian caves, on secretive hunting trails, and in patches of edible plants as you harvest them for a Southwestern meal.  The two best teachers of all time are experience, and the natural world.  We can learn a whole lot about life from hard work on the family farm, from sailing a small boat through choppy seas, or from spending the day picking sweet red candies off a wild mulberry tree.

My “edible plants” book claims that the one’s we find scatted around this area are “Texas Mulberries,” but it simply can’t be so… after all, this is New Mexico!  So let us call them Gila Mulberries instead, native to this county where I’ve long lived, cherished as well by the ancient Mogollon tribes that fed on them, and a treat still to any cowboys or backpackers lucky enough to stumble on one on a hot day in June.  And there is so much to learn climbing around in their giving green boughs, our mouths and fingers stained with berry juice.

Here are some typical silvan insights, and the potential implications for our personal lives, informed by the Earth, mulberry wise!:

1) Well managed orchards are impressive, but the rareness of wild mulberry trees make them the most special of all…

The lesson: Seek friends and lovers, causes and careers, places and moments full of character and meaning — rather than those that conform best, or produce the most.

2) Hikers that are too busy talking, can walk right under a tree’s branches without noticing its berries…

The lesson: The entire natural world is constantly trying to teach and nourish us. There are lessons, gifts and miracles all around, if only we’d wake up and open to them.

3) Turn or duck your head even the slightest bit, and you may spot berries you hadn’t previously seen…

The lesson: In life, the slightest change in our perspective often bears fruit.

4) The sweetest berries nest high in the tree, and it can be dangerous getting to them…

The lesson: Special rewards come to folks who are willing to risk a fall.

5) At the same time, we often we reach out far for what looks like a special berry, only to find sweeter ones right under our nose…

The lesson: Things tend to look more exotic and appealing at a distance, but don’t forget that the greatest treasures in life are those close at hand.

6) When high in the tree, the careful gatherer keeps a firm hold with whichever hand isn’t busy picking…

The lesson: When taking risks and making changes, it’s important to keep a grip on the here and now, the certain, the reliable, the true.

7) Carefully sample the strength of any branch, before putting all your weight into it…

The lesson: It’s smart to test any options– any forks or branches in the trail of life– before we fully commit to them.

8) If the tree gets no rain it’ll die.  Yet if over watered, its fruits turn out colorless and bland….

The lesson: We need sustenance and attention.  But those who are fussed over and smothered, who never learn to do without, are often the least interesting and effective people of all.

9) Some wild foods spoil more quickly than others.  This is why ground squirrels carry most of the acorns they gather home to their nest, but eat any mulberries they find right away…

The lesson: The wise person knows when to store and save, and when to just take it all in and enjoy.

10) The softer the berry, the sweeter it usually is…

The lesson: We may pride ourselves on our toughness, but it can leave a bitter taste.

11) It takes a lot of roots to hold a tree upright during the windy days of Spring…

The lesson: Family, community, history, tradition and relationship to place are what keep us grounded in the face of disruption and change.  If we’re to avoid being toppled, we’d better hang tightly to our roots.

12) Some of the tastiest berries can be found lying on the ground…

The lesson: Along with the sugar of life, comes a little grit and dirt.  And for some of the greatest gifts of all, we have to be willing to get down on our knees.

13) A wild mulberry tree only has fruit for a few short weeks each year, and the committed berry lover will make sure not to miss a single day…

The lesson: Sweet life, at its best, is relatively short.  Be there for it– eyes wide, mouth watering, heart willing… and fully thankful.

(Spread and Post Freely)

(For more nature-informed insights, got the Anima website, and consider committing to an Anima Home Study Course)

Rhiannon’s Wild Turkey: A Lesson in the Gift of Death and Resilience of Life – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Rhiannon’s Wild Turkey:
A Lesson in the Gift of Death and Resilience of Life

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Life is neither as fragile nor as tenuous as we are led to believe.  Women are not generally in danger if they give birth at home, not all health conditions require pharmaceutical intervention, and the loss of liberty is more of a threat than any terrorist.  We are bombarded with stories and images of violence and illness in part because the medical and insurance industries profit from and work hard to heighten the fear of death, and most or perhaps all governments depend on a constantly aroused sense of insecurity and vulnerability to win either our acquiescence or support for their amassing of power and the abridging of our rights.  Even the natural world, increasingly tested by every manner of extraction, pollution and abuse, is not brittle and morbid but adaptive and resolute.  A marvelous force, life is defined not by each individual’s eventual demise but by the inherent preoccupation with living.  Harm it, and – like our physical bodies – it seeks to heal.  All we need to do to help in most situations, is to step back and leave it alone.  Suppressed in one way or place, life will seek to burst up and through, new species arriving to fill in any emptied niche, coyotes having more pups during periods where they are being hunted hardest, plants developing resistance to herbicides, and people filled with the energy of life whenever not manipulated into focusing on risk and end.

We are, however, endangered by ailments, and responsible for our health.  The health of the natural world that we are part and extension of, is to a degree our responsibility too, as we act to help make whole what has been put asunder, to mend what’s been damaged, to heal what’s been dismembered.  We tend body and land through blatant activism, educating, protesting, organizing and agitating, but also through the growing or gathering of food, healthy nourishment and caring for ourselves, through care-taking and stewardship and trying our best to learn to do what’s most right.  Fragile it isn’t, but when it comes to the continuance and quality of life, we do in many ways hold both its potential and its fate in our hands.

This was driven home for our young daughter Rhiannon recently, in a canyon given lesson that she is not likely to forget.  When she was five we had a wonderful white rat named Lydia that she apparently wasn’t old enough yet to have much interest in, but in the years since she has increasingly wished she had a pet.  The Anima Sanctuary’s protective land covenants prohibit dogs and cats here, due to their substantial impact on the local wildlife that we’re committed to restoring.  Not that Rhiannon would even be satisfied by a domestic dog.  “I don’t want a pet to be caged or have to be with me all the time,” she explained.  ‘I want a fox that will play with me but have its own mate and den, or a raven that will come be my friend and let me pet it each day before flying off with it’s friends again.”  We’ve known it was just a matter of time before she would show up one day with a juvenile packrat or cuddly skunk, approaching us with the Otter Girl’s most imploring look.

Rhiannon had it with her for two days before feeling ready to tell us about it, a baby wild turkey that she had run and caught as a hen’s brood scrambled to keep up with her.  The reason we hadn’t seen it, and that it had been so content and quiet, was that she had been keeping it warm in her hat… on her head.

Our emotional response was mixed, first of all touched by her love for it, then proud she could catch one, and finally concern over what we would do with it.  We gave up trying to raise chickens long ago, when no amount of fencing could keep out the chicken munching owls, hawks, coyotes and raccoons, and we could just picture what would one day be a 30 pound bird holed up with her in her 8X10 treehouse.  Kiva did research and discovered that unlike other species, the mother turkey would likely not kick the baby out over the human smells left by handling, but the chances weren’t good for getting that close to the flock soon enough.

There was something so beautiful about the many expressions passing across Rhiannon’s face, as she kissed and petted her feathered charge.  Apprehension over our reaction, and its needs.   Uncertainty over what to do, and wondering if she had done the best thing.  A desire to keep it as her canyon companion, and a burning desire to somehow tend then set it free.

As she fed her baby with ground up acorns and water from an eye-dropper, it proved impossible for us not to imagine her attended by the grown turkey, defensive of her and distrustful of strangers, not large enough to ride like Princess Mononoke’s wolf but a faithful and brave compatriot even if not the smartest bird on the block.  It would come when she made a low clucking sound in her throat, or when she called its name… something both mythical and noble sounding but a unique Rhiannon creation, such as Sigfeather or Theobold.

“We’re sorry,” I had to tell her, even as it burrowed into her hat nest and petitioned to be put back on her head.  “Its chances of survival away from its mother when it’s this young are very slim,” I had to be honest, “you’d better love and enjoy it while you can.”  The consequences of her decision to bring the bird home sunk in the next morning, when she awoke the next morning to find her beloved stiffened and cold.

Other chicks from the same brood will die from other causes, a freak malady or the expected closing of a peregrine’s claws or canyon fox’s jaws.  But others will live on, dodging predation and growing to raise their own hopeful young, part of life’s relentless surge, life’s demonstrative will to be alive.  Though not fragile, it is of course mortal, and in that mortality lies the weight of our fateful choices as humans.  It is the price of consequence and the certainty of death that brings the tension and excitement to each being’s personal act of living… and that makes so precious and powerful, the sight of her other chicks growing in awareness and strength, celebrating what are all consequential moments on the river beach below.

(For more writings by Wolf Hardin, go to the Writings Page on the Anima Lifeways and Herbal School Site)

(Please post and share this piece widely)

Herbal Conformism and the Illusion of Normalcy by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Herbal Conformism and the Illusion of Normalcy:

A Response to Charles W. Kane
from the ‘Freak-Show Field’

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Charles W. Kane is an experienced clinical herbalist and self described “veteran of the war against terrorism.”  Unlike the majority of modern day herbalists, he would not be likely to describe our field as “alternative medicine”, and brings from a military and Western background a refreshing degree of old fashioned common sense and down-home candor.  We often refer to his book when looking for what is increasingly rare experience based information and competent materia medica.  That said, he is also someone whose pronouncements I occasionally find simultaneously disturbing and strangely enjoyable to disagree with.  A recent rant of his is titled “Image Herbal Medicine”, calling attention to various concerns that Kiva and I share, while featuring some assumptions and conclusions that surely call for a response.  It seems somewhat karmic (just kidding!) that such a response come not just from metropolitan, cappuccino swilling, politically correct crystal douser and Obama apologists, but from a long-haired cactus-hugging Gaian ecosopher who not only an animal middle name but also wears cowboy hats, stretches a mean barb wire fence, writes about Old West firearms and teaches personal defense.  The bulk of Kane’s article appears below in quotation marks.  Any blame or praise for the words between, falls fairly on me.

“This short essay may come across as snarky or even unpopular,” Mr. Kane starts.  And let me begin in turn by saying there’s no apology called for in either case.  Snarky can be insightful and incite-ful – and darkly entertaining – so long as we avoid the patronizing airs of elitism, are reasonably clever and truly right.  As for ideas being unpopular, in our screwed up society the writing or doing of what’s popular is one of the surest means of being wrong.

“Image herbal medicine or herbal medicine as a fashion statement is easily the most practiced form within the field today. The indicators that suggest an individual is image or fashion oriented are numerous:

1. Identity crisis: name changes to Root, Weed, or Green for example; middleclass whites (the majority of herbalists) wishing they were Hispanic, American Indian, or other “ethnic” races, as if some groups are more ‘connected’ to the plants/planet – a form of reverse racism really.”

Here, Kane has hit on an important issue regarding the lionization and adulation of particular ethnic groups, especially among guilt ridden herbalists and environmentalists… though a far more common and dangerous error in this society is imagining that we all, even EuroAmerican anglophones, are anything other than the descendants of land based peoples, heirs to our own traditions of natural healing and lifeways that were passed down from equally tribal, resilient, plant-wise folks whether whether they be Celts, Vikings or Visigoths.  That said, there is much to both learn from and respect in some of the ways of remaining indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia, Australia and the Americas, and little of honor and value to emulate in the current, modern, so called ‘civilized’ dominant cultural paradigm.

As for fledgeling herbalists changing their names to Root or Weed, it’s stereotypical enough that his observation earned some belly laughs.  Such names likely come closer to representing their characters, interests and allegiance of these plant loving people, however, just as nicknames like “Ace” or “Cowboy” might do a better job of describing certain rodeo regulars or U.S. Army tank crews than “John” or “Bob” like their parents picked.  Our ex New World Order neocon president goes by the respect demanding “George W. Bush”, but that alone wasn’t enough to win him any respect.  History shows that when people need help with their health problems, they cease to care if the person is referred to as Mike or Moss, as ‘Witch’ or even “Leonard Singh III, esq., Proctologist, PhD, DDT”  Just as it should be.

“2. Anti-establishment appearance/association: fits in at a rainbow gathering.”

That’s far too simplistic.  Not all anti-establishment types fit into Rainbow Gatherings, witness the radical Quakers with their archaic bonnets and men’s suspenders, the Michigan Militia and Wyoming Freemen in their cowboy boots and surplus camo fatigues, pissed off college professors wearing knitted vests that would have any Rainbow chuckling!  What is there to be preferred in pro-establishment business suits, blue collared polyester work shirts or corporate-logo baseball caps?  And what value would there be in dressing like everyone else, unless we were in a military uniform or 1950’s doo-wop band?  Most importantly, herbalists and village healers have never fully fit into or been embraced by the status quo.  As with shamans and medicine men, in earliest times the herb-wielding healer was often thought of as divinely mad or dangerously possessed, an affiliate of the unknown, agents of inexplicable powers who were sought out and rewarded when there was a personal or group needed but perhaps kept at a distance between.  As the language of science increasingly replaced that of magic, being conventional looking didn’t keep herbalists from being sidelined, trivialized and slandered.  Mr. Kane is and always will be an alternative practitioner, working outside of the accepted forms an protocols of the drug pushing, high-tech, high dollar medical industry.  He is as fringe as the jacket on David Hopper’s character in the cult film ‘Easy Rider’, if as uncomfortable with the fact as the beer chugging Jack Nicholson was in that same movie.

Herbal enthusiasts and healers are the alternative because we think outside of their box and hopefully outside of our own, because we look to nature for the knowledge, resources and examples we need, because we may see healing as a return to wholeness and vitality rather than a quick fix, as the treatment of causes and imbalances rather than the suppression of symptoms, with a goal not of living longer so much as living more authentic, healthy, vital, rich, meaningful, and purpose-full lives.  And we are alternative because we do not base our value on degrees or the letters after our names so much as on what we know, how willing we are to learn, and how effective we are in our practice.  Because we possibly do not require the approval of any segment of society, official or not, to believe in ourselves and our growing abilities, to act on what we know and assume a responsible role.

“3. Social orientation: anti-individual, group or collective oriented.”

No one is more of an individualist than myself, and I have always paid a high cost because of that.  I grew up individuating myself even if it took me rejecting ideas and ways of being that I’ve since found valuable.  While I teach groups of hundreds, I tend to quickly grow restless in a crowd larger than three!  And yet, we would at best be herb takers and not herbalists, if we only treated ourselves.  By its very definition, healing is other-oriented, a service to our collective kind whether that be an ecosystem, a community, a neighborhood or simply our own family.

“4. Politics: radical left, green socialism.”

There is predictably a majority of Progressives in the herbalism field, just as most environmental activists are Caucasian.  That is not an indictment of either herbalism or ecoactivism, however, but a questioning of and call for more diverse participation, for greater black and asian involvement in ecosystem restoration… with Republicans considering the treatment of more than their own cirrhosis, and contributing to the balance of more than their allopathic specialists’ bank accounts.

“5. ‘Spirituality’: gaia, plant spirit medicine, animism, Buddhism, or the “pick what feels good” self-styled path; anything non Judeo-Christian.”

I recognize that a certain shallow New Age, style oriented approach to herbalism has hurt the credibility and slowed the revival of herbalism in general, but not nearly so much as the slanderous statements released in industry and regulatory agency papers, nor any more than an internecine post such as Kane’s.

An understanding of the earth as a living totality whose health we depend on, can be found in nearly every religious tradition.  Recognition of a spirit or force in plants was characteristic of Christian mystics as well as Gnostics and alchemists, and new science is affording us a model and vocabulary for natural forces and healing processes are still nothing less than magical in their ways and ramifications.  How referencing the Greek word for Mother Earth – ‘Gaia’ – could discredit nature-inspired herbalism is beyond me, and it concerns me to imagine having a preponderance of Judeo-Christian practitioners could ensure the acceptance of and respect for the field of herbalism, when we should insist on being measured by intent and accomplishment, rather then prejudged and pre-approved due to any personal spiritual or philosophic bent.

“6. Modality crisis: embracing TCM, Ayurveda, Unani, or any other foreign system with the thought that they are more enlightened than western approaches, or equally common, the smorgasbord approach: cherry picking from an array of cultural approaches, ending up with a big pile of muddle.”

Eclecticism is indeed a pitfall on the path, leading us to select only what we like or find easy about an approach instead of facing the aspects that are more discomforting or challenging, creating a self-satisfying hybrid without the backbone of tradition, the test of experience, or the benefit of focus and devotion.  Still, even Mr. Kane’s system of Western Herbalism is a conglomerate, drawing from mix of different people’s ideas and approaches, an amalgam even if he were to try to resist all change and influence, and an evolving body of knowledge if not.  The Western world adopted the plants and adapted the healing techniques of the East, Greece was the meeting point of the two.  Roman medicine was highly informed by what they learned from North African healers.

“The catch-22 is when an individual matures to the point of dropping this exterior, moving on to adult life, herbal interest often gets dropped as well: this occurs to most in the field between the ages of 25 to 35. The ones that stay are often in a state of arrested development (75% of ‘older’ herbalists are still children).”

Actually, Mr. Kane is at least as concerned with exterior appearance as any cloak conscious pagan herbalist, and perhaps more so since he deemed it a topic worthy of writing an article.  His entire piece is given to describing how important he finds conventional appearance in the search for personal acceptance and professional credibility.  It matters a lot to him that he not look like a hippie, Democrat, Moslem or Mexican, nor be confused with flower-sniffing, plant communing herbalists whose look he believes undermine the practice.

But yes, most herbalists, plant lovers and nature nuts that I know are still childlike, stopping the most adult activities at the sight of an unnamed plant at the side of the road or trail, grinning and hopping up and down when they finally key it out, anxious to make others feel better, crestfallen when unable to do so.  The are delightfully free of the fear of being seen in public adoring another life form, free of concern over getting their knees dirty when a fragile sprout or shiny bug calls for close attention, inclined to act on their impulses and convictions, likely to foolishly but wondrously work to heed an inner calling or fulfill their dreams.

People trapped in what Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) might call premature adulthood, are stuck  with concealing their excitement over even the rarest of plants under a veneer of machismo or maturity, and worry needless if someone is watching when it comes time to crawl around for skullcap or jump into a swimming hole.

“If you look like you just steeped off the bus from the local primitive skills gathering, you will raise doubts in the minds of the people you are treating. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been thanked by patients, who appreciate my normality within an otherwise freak-show field.”

Looking like what the average, normal person considers to be a freak can be counterproductive if you want to be able to treat folks of all kinds, from all walks of life.  On the other hand, there is nothing about a conservative’s crew cut or doctor’s starched white doctor’s coat that universally communicates wisdom, let alone accessibility, a capacity for empathy, deep concern or human warmth.  And by being comfortable with their selves, their bodies, mortal processes and physical looks, healers help their clients to do the same.

Normal is too often the refuge of the fearful and average, the self doubting and those who are scarily well adjusted to situations and environments they should naturally be finding intolerable and unacceptable.  It is normal to obey every new law that is passed no matter how unconstitutional or intrusive, to pay thousands of dollars for health insurance without spending anything to learn how to care for ourselves and our loved ones or tend even the most simple to treat family ailments, to take steroids for allergies and antibiotics for nearly everything else.  It’s all too normal for practiced nurses to defer to book learned doctors, for health practitioners to ignore their instincts and observations and blindly employ the pharmaceutical-centric approach, and for herbalist to worry they can’t do any good unless they are certified and have an office.

What’s not normal, Charlie W. Kane, is someone like yourself caring so much about plants and natural healing at the same time you’re so concerned about appearing normal.  Just a little bit freaky, you have to admit.

A Town’s Sad Tale: The Time To Act is Always Now, Avoiding Regrets Later – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The following is another post such as will appear in the future Libertarian/Rewilding website magazine, unnamed as yet, and so for now called “The Straight Shot.”  These will consistently feature opinion, sentiment, history and a call to personal responsibility and action.  Read, and Spread Freely.

A Town’s Sad Tale

The time to act is always now… avoiding regrets later

Exactly 210 miles due north of my backwoods New Mexico home sits the little frontier town of Telluride, nested between the peaks of Colorado’s beautiful San Juans.  It reportedly got its name from the muleskinners yelling “To hell you ride!” as they maneuvered the racing freight wagons down the treacherously steep mountain.  Nine out of ten wagons made it into the village.  One out of ten plummeted off the cliffs.

Long after the mines played out and the only road was paved, it was still quite an effort and an adventure to get there.  Like my nearby village of Reserve, it’s located hundreds of miles from a city of any size.  The roads are twisty, the mountain passes are icy and dangerous in the Winter, and a lonely driver spends hours in his car between cafes and gas stations.  No one wound up there by mistake or on whim.  If you made it to Telluride it was because you really, really wanted to be there!  This was a great benefit to the fourth and fifth generation locals there, who liked to see a little money trickle into the community, but who were always glad the crowds didn’t get too big, and usually smiled with relief when the last tourists left.

For years folks parked in the middle of Main St. to exchange the latest gossip.  And while people complained about the price of food at the only grocery store, they were glad not to have to go to the “darn city” to stock up.  People played softball, attended socials, held dances and celebrated their remote, mountain defined culture.

By the 1960’s the town had started to change but there was no real crime there most of the time.  Sure, there were a large number of heavy drinkers and a few philanderers, but everybody knew who the only thief in town was, and he was more or less tolerated so long as he only stole from well-heeled “touristas.”  The locals hunted the plentiful deer whenever they needed meat, and the Sheriff’s main duties involved helping tipsy saloon patrons walk the two block to their home.  By the 1980’s they were getting pretty well known for their Summer bluegrass festival, but it was still a real adventure for anyone to make the trip, no matter where the heck they were starting from.  Of course, a few well-heeled land developers started talking about the need to “overcome Telluride’s primitive isolation,” but no one really believed things would ever change… or, at least, that they would change so fast.

Until the first airstrip went in, that is.  Suddenly it required neither obsession nor perseverance to make one’s pilgrimage to this special place, and anybody with the price of a ticket could check their golf clubs with the Denver Airport baggage handlers after work on Friday, and by evening be sipping marguerites in sight of Telluride’s scenic waterfall in the heart of the of the once unspoiled San Juans.  Suddenly, instead of intrepid souls and wild eyed adventurers planning for months to make the sojourn of a lifetime, nothing more was required than a momentary whim.  You can easily imagine the tone of the nattily dressed Salt Lake City lawyer or trendy Berkeley bartender, worried most about the area hotel rooms not being modern enough, or the local clubs sufficiently hopping: “I just can’t seem to decide where to go this weekend, and you know how easily bored I get… maybe I’ll buzz over to check out Telluride.”

As a direct result of such newfound convenience, longtime resident’s homes were soon bought out at inflated prices and turned into shops full of “Indian” crafts, souvenir snow globes with clearly drowned plastic skiers, and paintings of the nice way the place used to look before the ski resort spread out.  Swiss Chalets quickly overshadowed the historic log cabins and vintage Victorian style houses.  And worst of all, those apartments for part-timers they call “condominiums” started sprouting up everywhere one looked, like boils on a burn victim.  As a result, people who arrived with the intention of  having an experience in nature found themselves spending all too much of their June in chlorine-filled pools, or sitting in front of the TV’s in their rented rooms.

If that wasn’t enough, the community soon found itself in a major battle over the expansion of the airport, proposed in order to make it possible for small private jets to land.  Environmentalist ski-bums joined with old time ranchers in opposing the plan, but they may have waited too long to band together and resist the changes that were being forced on them.  When it was over, a handful of big-dollar lawyers and investors had effectively bought out or overcome the will of the locals and construction began.  As a consequence, real estate prices rapidly soared.  A good amount of money was made by those who sold their beloved homes and moved away, and those trying desperately to hang on soon found the annual land taxes had gone up to high for them to pay.  Everyday workers were losing their houses to “second home” buyers from from out of state.  They found themselves living in and commuting from Sawpit and Placerville, a 30 minute or more commute from the place where they actually wanted to sleep.

Today the town is not only gussied up but generally gentrified.  The sidewalks are sparkly clean, buildings have been nicely restored and the signs freshly painted.  Unfortunately, the few kids from local bloodlines that still hang out there are stuck with pouring bubbly water for thirsty restaurant patrons.  We find them maintaining the ski lifts in their tee shirts ironically festooned with corporate advertisement, or wearing little white caps to keep the grease out of their hair while flipping veggie burgers for their Winnebago driving patrons.  I remember one ol’ gal, still pissed off about what they’d done to her little town and their once way of life.  I can recall her looking past the blinking traffic lights and three story condos to the storm clouds forming and fuming just above the mountain.  “If only we would have could have done something sooner!” she growled.  “If only we’d seen it coming…”

And “it” is on its way, no matter where you live or may ever visit, to all the places that you might love just as they are: The scenery, transformed not by art or need but by a clumsier hand, into fabrications of the tacky visions of advertising executives with predictable post modern tastes.  The rural, recreational or agrarian culture you may have valued, not vanquished but sidelined, diluted, marginalized, and finally infiltrated, perverted and appropriated.  The Old Town section of your favorite city, with its park or plaza, narrow streets lined with hawking vendors and busking musicians torn down as part of some hallucinatory scheme.  The neighborhood with big yards where children play and flower gardens flourish, inexorably inundated with poured concrete and molten asphalt the way that Hawaiian volcanoes lay claim to nearby schoolyards with their suffocating lava.  The precious quiet, awaiting like a politically correct pacifist for a future mugging by the abrasive tenor of constantly arriving aircraft and consistently congested traffic.  The building of new airports were there were none, but also the swallowing of smaller airports where you may have enjoyed watching takeoffs and landings as a kid, by the broad security perimeters of giant mega-airports.  And you can’t say that you didn’t see it coming… once you’ve had forceful denial and comforting delusion dashed by this unenviable article.

We rightly get angry about those harmful and unbeauteous things that we have no influence over, yet by my reckoning, we need only regret that which we fail act on or respond to.  We’ll certainly have little cause to regret later those things that we successfully – or even unsuccessfully – repelled or resisted now.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin

To read an excellent article on urban guerrilla gardening, sidewalk reclamation and the garden as protest, we recommend checking out: