Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I kind of feel like I should comment on Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker's testimony before Congress the other day, or on my thoughts on the surge, or on Republican sex scandals, or on any number of significant events that have occurred on the national scene on the past few weeks. But, I operate always on a limited energy budget, and so I'm not going to waste effort saying what so many have said so well already: there's a major crisis in leadership going on right now, and if someone doesn't step up to fix it, we're all screwed. Or maybe we're all screwed anyway.

Instead of going on about that, though, I wanted to write about the plants that are growing up through our deck. My husband and I are currently living in his grandmother's house while she is in assisted living, nominally so we can take care of the upkeep of the house but really because we're dirt poor and she's helping us out. It's a nice house, 3 bedrooms and a finished basement and a pool out back. Around this pool, there is a deck, with fencing to keep out small children and make the insurance happy. And since no one lived here for about a year before my husband and I moved in, there are plants growing up from underneath the decking, through the boards to where they can get sun. If it all was left alone, I imagine eventually they would swallow the deck, it would rot down to dirt like dead wood is supposed to, and you'd have a thicket of bushes. Instead of allowing that to happen, I've pulled out most of them (and by pulled out, I mean chopped off, as I don't have the muscle strength to actually pull roots out of the ground).

This one, though, I've allowed to stay.

I've told myself that I'll tear it out once the flowers are gone. I don't know if I will; its my job, sort of, it's part of what I've said I'll do in exchange for living here in a nice suburban house instead of a crappy inner city studio, but it breaks my heart to think of destroying something so beautiful.

I wish I knew what kind of flowers these are. I'm sure they have a name or two, and if I was educated I would know what it is. On the other hand, maybe knowing its name would take away from its beauty. This is a plant that grows where it isn't supposed to grow, life in defiance of order; a name would impose order on it. I think that in some ways, things are less alive when they're more orderly.

All my life until now, I've lived close to wild places. I grew up surrounded by mountains; we weren't that far into the sticks, but the sticks weren't that far from us either. The major attraction of the town I grew up in was the hiking; the next nearest town was famous for its waterfall. When I went to school in Seattle, the ocean was always close; Puget Sound is as domesticated as ocean gets, but that's not saying much. Even when I was in the Army in California, the ocean was right there, you could walk down to it, and hear the seals calling at night from all over the peninsula.

Now, in St Louis, I don't get that sense of wilderness anywhere I've been so far. It's all paved over, settled, obedient land. Even the river is brown and slow and tamed; maybe when there are floods, its different, but I have yet to see it. It doesn't feel right to walk, or, more accurately, drive, around the city, and not see a single thing that isn't firmly under human control. I can't help but think that living without wilderness is a kind of poverty.

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