“To love a place is not enough.
We must find ways to heal it.”~Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Nothing is ever completely bad. There is always something to be learned. I find myself at times mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, enjoying random photos and thoughts, stopping to smile at a cartoon or an uplifting thought. Whenever I find something that I think is ugly, or cruel, or unnecessarily degrading to another, or representing a philosophy that I find to be antisocial, I ‘hide’ that post. But there can be many enlightening and intriguing posts, some are educational, some give you a view of life from an unusual perspective. I saw a photo the other day two tanks of water from a polluted bay. One tank contained oysters, and the water appeared clear, filtered by those strange bivalve mollusks. The tank with no oysters was murky and unappealing.
Do we ever stop to think about this wonderful amazing world that we live in? The scientist quoted at the top of the page is a botanist, in fact she studies that tiniest of substances: moss. Yes, that stuff that never grows on a rolling stone. That stuff that supposedly can give you directions when you are lost in the forest (if you can remember – does it grow on the north or the south side of trees?). It apparently was one of the first of the plants to make it out of the sea onto the earth, and it performs amazing functions. Moss manages to find ways to live on very unfriendly surfaces such as rocks, yet it thrives and provides shelter and nourishment for a host of other living beings. They manufacture soil, they filter water (like those oysters I saw) in fact they produce more than they use. This is quite a contrast to the human being, who have spent centuries taking and destroying this world, without making sure that we leave provision for our grandchildren and future generations.
Kimmerer has such a reverence for plants that she questions why we refer to living things other than humans as ‘it’, pointing out that when we refer to a thing as ‘it’ we are showing a lack of reverence, a lack of appreciation and gratitude for the plants that have provided sustenance for us for millennia. There is a philosopher, Martin Buber, who wrote on a similar theme about the concept of the I-Thou relationship, one where we treat others with respect, seeing their humanness. When we see others from the I-Thou perspective, we are seeing ourselves in relation to them, sharing a connection. On the other hand, the I-it relationship sees separation, sees a thing as being other, apart. It was interesting to hear the botanist discussing the same concept, suggesting that when we pay attention to the plant world, seeing them as more than ‘it’, we can appreciate them, and recognize that it is time we reciprocated that appreciated by ensuring that we take care of the plants that provide for us every day.
What grabbed my attention in particular was this concept of filtration. Mosses and oysters and coral reefs perform this function for us on a daily basis, trying to keep up with the pollution that we mindlessly dump into our world and water. Not only that, but they may turn that trash into treasure. The oyster takes grit, polishes it and turns it into a pearl. How amazing is that? How much less beautiful would our world be if it wasn’t for the living creatures that inhabit it, the plants, the trees, the mountains (yes, rocks represent epochs of living things), and all of the features that Mother Nature has bestowed on it. What can we do to reciprocate, to show our appreciation, to live harmoniously on our planet?
As usual I had to reflect on the way we can act as filters in our own world. I mentioned my small acts of weeding out unpleasant, negative or even hateful words and images from my facebook page. But can we do it also in our interactions with others? Can we call people out on their acts or statements of negativity? Can we help them to reframe their thoughts in a more upbeat way? Can we catch ourselves when we fall into the habit of being demeaning or discouraging? On our family’s recent visit to Jamaica we drove to Alligator Pond with a lady driver who regaled us with story after story of crime, murder and tragic death. I had to beg her to find a positive story to tell us! I know that Jamaican life can be violent, but there must be just as many heartwarming and uplifting stories out there!
According to Kimmerer, in some Native American languages the word for plants translates to ‘those who take care of us’. On this beautiful Friday morning I encourage you to look at the world through new eyes, to truly appreciate how complex our ecosystem is. Our lives are interwoven and interdependent on the flora and fauna of our planet, but unless we find ways to care for and nurture the plants that have sustained us for so long, we may not be able to provide for those generations yet to come. And if you can, be like the moss and filter out the bad while generating good.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!