Somewhere in Suburbia....
A tall set of pine trees graced our southeastern fence line for many years. They were a stately trio, planted as a group forty years ago, around the time our home was built. Since they had grown up together we called them The Three Sisters.
The Sisters gave us dappled shade in summer and offered a home to small birds and squirrels all year round. At night we'd sit around a backyard fire drumming with friends and watch the moon arch up and up and up, over our redwood fence till it seemed to dance in their branches. After a long day, we'd relax within their gentle shadows, sip tea, watch the birds at the feeders, and enjoy the breeze. If there is music more beautiful than wind song in pine trees, I have yet to hear it.
I planted a shade garden under the pines, using native wildflowers, herbs, and woodland plants. Over the years this little plot became a source of varied riches for our family. It offered soothing scents for us, pollen for the bees, food for the birds, digging spots for the squirrels and jays, a cool resting space for the dog, day long entertainment for the cats, and some glorious color; all of this in a small, magical place watched over by The Sisters.
One day my neighbor decided that she did not like these "messy old trees". Since they grew on her side of the fence she had the right to cut them down, which she has just done. Now I know how the Ents felt when they saw the destruction wrought by Saruman.
Our shade garden won't last the summer. The birds and the squirrels will have to find new places to live. It is nesting season now, and there is less and less habitat for wildlife in Silicon Valley, so they'll have a hard time of it. People here just don't seem to understand what it takes to have a healthy local ecosystem, and how that, in turn, affects the whole. In fact, few people ever stop to consider how the environment they create, protect, neglect, or destroy directly affects the quality of their lives. Some of us are working to change that, but it’s a slow process.
I performed a simple ritual to bless and thank the trees. Then I pulled out my gardening catalogs to see what life giving plants and herbs I can grow under these new, much harsher conditions. Gardeners know that we can make only so many changes to the land and the soil around us. We love to create an abundant paradise of peace, but we have to work with what we have. Which is why I love whoever said that a garden is "A thing of beauty and a job forever".
Northern California, 2005
Endnotes: I wrote that post two years ago, just before we moved to a mountain in Oregon. I now have a multitude of trees on our property, and I am involved in efforts to save wild lands and old growth forests where we live now, but I will never forget the Three Sisters and the magic they brought us.
Pagan and other friends of mine who live California continue their attempts to educate the public on the importance of using of native plants and trees, providing habitat for birds and animals, and waterwise gardening. California is going to need this wisdom in the years to come, as water becomes an issue around the globe.
Check out the native plant nurseries in your area or visit the websites for the various Native Plant societies.
Master Gardeners also offers a free phone line for questions. These folks will be happy to give you information about the right plants and trees for your garden.
If you outside of the U.S. or Canada, use the Internet and keywords like (your area) + native plants.
Some Links of Interest:
National Native Plant Nursery Directory (U.S.)
Native Plant Societies of the United States and Canada
Master Gardeners (U.S.)
8 Steps to a Water-Wise Garden
The Sierra Club
National Audubon Society
ENTS: Eastern Native Tree Society
The Eastern Native Tree Society (ENTS) is a cyberspace interest group devoted to the celebration of trees of the eastern North America through art, poetry, music, mythology, science, medicine, and wood crafts.
Western Native Tree Society
Admiring a Great Pine in Oregon
The Facts About Clearcut Logging
The Ecology Fund: Help Save Land Around the World (it's free)
John Muir on the Need for National Forests:
The outcries we hear against forest reservations come mostly from thieves who are wealthy and steal timber by wholesale. They have so long been allowed to steal and destroy in peace that any impediment to forest robbery is denounced as cruel and irreligious interference with 'vested rights,' likely to endanger the repose of all ungodly welfare. Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would be hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in the place of old trees" tens of centuries old" that have been destroyed. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierras. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time and long before that God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining tempests and floods; but He cannot save them from fools, only Uncle Sam can do that.