Saturday, May 07, 2011

Tickling the Tiger's Belly

It was probably in my 20s when, in a dream, as I was riding in an open truck cab down a street in the neighborhood, a large wild feline--let's call it a tiger--ran up and leaped upon me. In the next moment, I and the cat had tumbled down out of the truck, the tiger had shrunk into a docile kitten lying on its back, and I was tickling its belly.

I thought of that dream this past Sunday as a volunteer and I plucked garlic mustard weeds out of a wooded slope near Mountain Lakes House. Volunteers have been pulling garlic mustard there for years now before the invasive plant has a chance to go to seed, and as the soil's reserve of weed seeds diminishes, our work has become progressively lighter. This year the pulling was easy, the soil soft from rains, the weeds scattered and few, which meant more attention could be paid to the peaceful spring morning, and the native diversity springing up all around--Pennsylvania sedge, solomon's seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit.

In a world often short on sense, with so much of nature thrown out of balance, I tend to look upon a rich gathering of native species as a refuge of sanity. What a pleasure to feel time echoing through that woods, our work made easy by those who had come before, surrounded by plant species that had achieved balanced association over millennia of co-evolution. This is a habitat restorationist's dream--a wild order relieved of past traumas, where the riches of a land's history speak to the future, and nature calls out for nothing more than a scratch on its belly.

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