Friday, May 1, 2009

Jane: Life in the Garden

Every evening I've been going outside and pulling out maple seedlings out of the garden beds. And every evening I come up with a handful of seedlings like this!

I think I have a bed cleared out, and then there are some new seedlings. They are everywhere. Well, we have a gnarly old red maple in our backyard and it just must believe in that passage from the bible "Choose Life." (I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. Deut 30:19) (I found that on a cool online concordance on

Of course, the maple tree isn't really choosing, is it, but it is being fruitful and multiplying! And it just won't stop, like most things in the garden at this time of year. Trying to stop life in the garden--or at least corral life--is a tough job, and maybe it's going against some life force that exists in the universe. Maybe I should give up on the weeding . . .

Well, the life force isn't the only one in the universe, as you can see from this spirea plant. I think the winter might been the death force for it. The rhododendron behind it is also looking winter-damaged. In general, winter was certainly all about the death force this year.

My friend Lisa was telling me the other day about her dog's response to the life and death forces in the universe. They were on a walk and "some pocket gopher decided to pop up its head." Of course, the dog went for it, and he wasn't on a leash. Lisa was both philosophical and distressed as she described how her dog went after that gopher and then "played" with it--shaking it and tossing it--until it was dead.

"I didn't know whether I should call him off or not," she said to me. "But you know that if you call them off, they'll just kill it faster." She thought that the scene was a perfect rejoinder to creationists who insist that God created everything exactly the way it is. "What would you think about a God who carefully creates an animal that would do that?" she mused.

Is a carnivore's instinct the death force? Or a sign of evil or at least "not good" in the world? I don't know. It was distressing for Lisa to watch her dog playing with and killing an animal. But I think a creationist would love that image--it shows that some creatures are made to have dominance. And I'm not sure I like where that leads.

Is killing--maple seedlings or pocket gophers--going against the Life Force? Or that a creator God can't be a good one? I know my garden would not be as pleasing--or even a garden--without some killing happening. It'll be weeds for a while, and then bugs. They must DIE, as Robbie jokingly says about various things.

Life and death in the garden--maybe they're not opposed, but part of some larger scheme. That's the only way I can think about it. This reminds me of in Michael Pollen's book
The Omnivore's Dilemma. I guess I'm not the only one to think about it.

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