A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The good, the bad and the inconvenient

Gardening is often a measured cruelty:
what is to live and what is to be torn
up by its roots and flung on the compost
to rot and give its essence to new soil.

It is not only the weeds I seize.
go down the row of new spinach—
their little bright Vs crowding—
and snatch every other, flinging

their little bodies just as healthy,
just as sound as their neighbors
but judged, by me, superfluous.
We all commit crimes too small

for us to measure, the ant soldiers
we stomp, whose only aim was to
protect, to feed their vast family.
It is I who decide which beetles

are "good" and which are "bad"
as if each is not whole in its kind.
We eat to live and so do they,
the locusts, the grasshoppers,

the flea beetles and aphids and slugs.
By bad I mean inconvenient. Nothing
we do is simple, without consequence
and each act is shadowed with death.
"The good, the bad and the inconvenient" by Marge Piercy, from The Crooked Inheritance. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I was taken aback when reading this poem because I have entertained many of the same ideas in the past; I figured that I was the only one who might have entertained such almost sentimental thoughts.   In the "old days," when my family was  involved in growing food from seeds, I used to agonize inwardly when I had to "thin" out a row of any vegetable seedlings.  I wondered about the implications for the plant of choosing which little seed's thrust toward life and reproduction I would terminate and which I would  allow to flourish.  I honestly felt badly every time I scraped a little green baby plant out of the soil to make room for its neighbors to thrive with more abundant space, soil, nourishment, and water.

In the same gardens, of course,  lived thousands of little insects and vermin  (pests) of various sorts because we didn't use chemical pesticides. Often the organic solutions we employed for pest "management" didn't work or were relatively ineffective, so the very existence of our vegetables was jeopardized by tiny creatures that were only seeking to sustain their own lives and then reproduce in kind. I regularly took their lives more mindlessly than I did the plants, wanting to thwart their destructive tendencies. Maybe I saw them somehow as "lesser" life forms as well as horticulturally undesirable. Through the course of the garden's annual life--its season from frost to frost--I was very aware of the curious life and death relationship and of my role in it.

In a sense, by planting a garden, we had, for what seemed good and noble reasons, altered the natural or normal relationship between flora and fauna. We had artificially added plants and vegetables to the food supply chain and, unwittingly, encouraged and supported an imbalance of supply and demand in the miniscule natural world of our little garden. From planting to thinning to fertilizing to harvesting, our human judgement and actions supplanted--and were inserted into--natural processes. In this microcosm, our human activity--even though it was comparatively benign and contained in scope--made an incredible life and death impact on the little world of our garden.

Thinking back on this agrarian enterprise causes me to be even more aware and horrified--yea depressed and angered as well-- by the often thoughtless impact of human activity on our earthly home. From my 11th floor apartment window, I can see acres of roof tops and miles of asbestos streets and highways, all built for our convenience and comfort, and with little thought to how we were changing where rain fell and water drained, where snow-melt flowed and stored, where leaves dropped and rotted to form new top soil, where the heat and cold stored by solid masses of roads and buildings changed the climates immediately around them, where root systems were covered, fauna habitats and chemical compositions of soil were destroyed or altered forever, and on and on. 

Just think about it. What I am seeing is just me and my limited view from one window here in South East Denver, a vista that encompasses an area perhaps as large as a square mile. Recalling  the impact that I had on my little garden (maybe 1/8th acre), I shudder when Google tells me that the land area of the earth is about 197 million square miles bigger than the square mile  I see, and that it is populated by over 7 billion people like me, acting as I have acted,  whose numbers are increasing by about 20 million a year; and I extrapolate from my limited garden experience to all this immensity and ponder what this most likely means for the planet...for my children and their children...for humankind...

we do is simple, without consequence
and each act is shadowed with death."

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