Oasis on the prairie — Chapter 3
Where ever humans go, so goes the water. That’s how trees think anyway. Humans use a lot of water and so do trees. It is only natural for the trees to congregate in and around human towns. You can drive the plains and go long stretches without even seeing a tree but when you spot a green canopy of trees pop up on the horizon you know you are approaching a town.
Towns are like little island forests. Walking the neighborhoods of these towns is often like taking a nature walk. Many of the trees in my island forest were planted 50, 75, 100 years ago and they all have a story to tell.
Being a walker at this point in time, I walk through this arboreal eco-system every day. There is not a tree in my part of town that I do not know.
I know where all the fruit-bearing mulberry trees are. I try to eat some mulberries from each one of them each summer. It is a delightfully spiritual experience to stand under a mulberry tree gorging on mulberries. Often I never have to leave the public sidewalk to indulge in this intimate experience. There are also a few cherry trees and at least one peach tree who have come to expect annual visits from me.
Then there is that little strawberry patch growing behind the garage of the vacant house a couple of blocks away. I walk past that strawberry patch almost daily. I watch them and know just when the strawberries will be ripe. I am guilty of harvesting a good deal of strawberries. And by harvesting I mean almost zero time between when a berry is picked and when it is in my mouth. On a few occasions I went hands-free and plucked the fruit off a tree directly with my mouth. There was no time between harvesting and tasting the fruit. I found out what it’s like to be a giraffe.
Spring is a good time to harvest dandelion leaves. But one must be very careful and only harvest in places that have not had toxic pesticides or herbicides or fungicides sprayed on it. We get enough of that in the grocery store food.
Not only is my island forest filled with food but it is also teeming with wildlife. I know I’ve talked about it before but, seriously, this town/forest I live in is unbelievably infested with rabbits. They’re everywhere.
I have something in common with all the rabbits. I, too, am crepuscular. By that I mean that the two most active times of day is at sunrise and sunset — the two magic times of day. I often time my nature walks through the ecosystem to occur in conjunction with either the sunrise or sunset. At that time of day one must be very careful walking so as not to accidentally step on a rabbit.
“Without birdsong the universe would collapse.” — White Feather
As luck would have it, this little corn field-surrounded island forest town just happens to be on the migratory flight patterns of countless birdies. If it wasn’t for the birds I probably would have gone cuckoo by now living here. The birds here are incredible (especially in spring and fall) and, for me, their symphonies have been very healing and uplifting.
So the trees followed the humans into these human settlements and then the birds followed the trees. I was always envious of trees because, when standing perfectly still, they could have hundreds of birds perched on their branches, all singing away like there was no tomorrow. Can you imagine how euphoric that must feel to the trees? I tingle just thinking about it.
So we have the trees and the birds and rabbits and the humans all living together in perfect harmony…..
One day while walking through town I came upon a horrific scene. A tree-cutting service had all their equipment out and were taking down a huge hundred-year-old cottonwood in someone’s front lawn. It is extremely painful and depressing for me to see a tree being cut down. My landlord cut down a 60-year-old American Redbud tree from the space between the sidewalk and the street curb. Every spring that tree turned violently purple. It was one of the biggest redbuds I’ve ever encountered. The birds really, really, really loved that tree! And so did I. But the landlord said, “It was growing too close to the tree next to it.”
It took me a couple of months to recover from that. Actually, I must question whether I am truly over it or not.
It also drives me cuckoo-crazy when, on my walks, I see people spraying toxic pesticides and herbicides all over their lawn.
One day every summer our little municipality sends a big tanker truck up and down the city streets spraying toxic pesticides as they go. It’s the annual, “skeeter kill.” For a week to ten days after “skeeter kill” there will be an inordinate amount of dead birds on the streets and sidewalks throughout town.
While humans have helped to create these idyllic eco-systems, it is the humans that are not in perfect harmony with the coagulation of life. It’s a reflection of the pollution going on within those humans. Some of the humans have been so polluted in their thinking that they have been rendered utterly unaware of the paradise in which they live.
Thankfully, the birds will continue singing until we finally awaken and hear them.