Lately it seems that Mother Nature has had it with human greed and stupidity. She seems to be shivering her skin the way a cat does when it’s disgusted. And when Mother Nature shivers, it causes earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, and tornados. The balance of the earth shifts, mines cave in, oil wells blow out, people die, homes are lost, children starve, entire cultures are altered forever.
With so much suffering around the planet, I’m reminding myself almost hourly that no matter how sad I feel for victims of earthquakes, floods, oil well explosions, tornados, and mine disasters, it doesn’t change their reality. I can pray for them, I can send donations, I can press for an end to our insane dependence on petroleum or for an end to destroying forests and mountains, but that doesn’t bring back lives lost or entire cultures blighted.
What I can do is focus on my own little plot of earth. Tend my own garden, as it were. Not as a selfish, who-cares turning of my back on other people’s suffering, but as a way of trying in a very small way to restore some balance to nature. Creating little spots of beauty won’t ever mitigate the destruction of mountains and rivers, but it offers a contrast to the mindset that justifies ugliness. And so I’ve planted flowers.
Since I live in Florida, where the heat is only slightly less than the center of the sun, planting flowers is an act of faith and stubbornness. My yard is blessedly shaded by an old oak tree, but one corner gets full sun almost all day long. A big yellow rock lies in that corner, sort of stretched out like a lioness. I thought some bright flowers would be cheerful against the rock, so I spent a sweaty hour at Home Depot choosing what to plant. The choices narrowed down to what might survive. Annuals that are sold as “sun tolerant” everywhere else need some shade in Florida or they shrivel and die. And since our water shortage is critical, anything planted has to be tough. I ended up with several flats of marigolds, vincas, and purslane, with some individual pentas.
Since I’m not able to get down on the ground and grub in it myself, I asked my helpers Ron and Robert to come do the grubbing part. I drew a blueprint for them, and supervised the placement of each flower, and when they finished we all agreed it looked really good. Robert gave the flowers a big drink of water, and Ron set up a soaker timed to water them for five minutes every night for a week. Then, because we all knew that water was too precious to water them more than a week, Robert spoke very solemnly to them. “You’re basically on your own,” he said. “Be strong. Hope for rain.”
I’ve been watching them closely. One end of the rock gets shade part of the day, and the flowers at that end are holding up well. But at the other end, where the sun shines all day, the blossoms seem to be gasping for breath. I go out and look at them and send them love. It’s a small thing, I know, but I entertain the fanciful notion that my little spot of beauty links to all other little spots of beauty in flower beds or roof gardens or planters. I hope that all those linked spots of beauty balance the ugliness of the crimes against Mother Nature and makes her inclined to forgive us.