My baby brother has always wanted to be safe. A picture of our family shows him at age four, nestled deep in my father's lap, holding a stuffed animal close. Last week, at age 64, he was holed up on the eleventh floor of a condominium high-rise in Jacksonville, Florida. The St. Johns River roiled below him. He and his wife were lucky: they did not lose power, though the elevator stopped working. They planned to walk down eleven flights of stairs to view the destruction nearby and to get food from the grocery store. Where does he think food will come from? How it will get to the store?
He is suffering from “divorcement from nature,”a term coined by world-class gardener Alan Chadwick. That divorcement is now an American epidemic. Immigrants came to this country in waves from all over the world. We moved across the country harvesting natural resources and turning those living resources into money in the bank. We have built our culture on consumption. Now that same culture, out of balance, is eating us alive!
Alan worked with the subtle forces of nature to create gardens of eye-popping beauty and vitality. “How much more delicious to think that you're going to put (the garden) in balance instead of making war and destruction against creation,” he said. “When you approach your garden in this way, you have so many flowers, so much fruit, and so many vegetables, you haven't even enough friends to give them to....Because your soil, your air, becomes fertile and rich, and beautiful, and when the world becomes beautiful, it doesn't require outrageous destruction.”
Outrageous destruction: we have seen it in Houston and now in Jacksonville. My mother often quoted a phrase, “ And all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty back together again.” Do we really think that we could or should spend hundreds of billions of dollars to put Houston or Florida back together again? Will we build even more concrete, more development inadvertently inviting even more flooding? Where will we find the money to rebuild? Will we increase the national debt? Aren't the consequences of our abuses of nature becoming obvious?
The kings of consumption are dying: it is time to summon the Queen of Creation: Nature. She weaves wholeness and beauty effortlessly and efficiently. She attends to the smallest detail. She embodies fecundity; she transforms waste into food. She works in rhythms and cycles: death into life into death; light into dark into light. Her processes multiply exponentially: two can become millions in only five generations. When we work with her, we create beauty, bounty and balance.
Years ago, I learned that a raindrop falling from the sky lands hard on pavement or concrete. Water runs off surfaces that are hotter than it is; it soaks into soil that is cooler. Each time a raindrop lands on a leaf, its force softens. In a forest, it lands on layers of leaves: the leaves of trees, shrubs, low-growing plants and finally dead leaves and detritus on the ground. Then it gently sinks into the soil. These laws of nature are inviolate. Small actions multiply to create the consequences we now face.
How can we restore balance to our world? By restoring the complex and diverse web of connections with nature and with each other. It is that web that sustains life itself.
My brother talked several years ago about volunteering to help bring dancing to the promenade that is now under water. I hope he does! Each of us has our own unique gifts and talents to share. When we come together and work for the good of the whole, we will transform the world into a place where all life can live—and die-- in beauty and harmony. May this be our vision for a new world!