“Nature is what makes us human; what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves.” Jennifer Sahn, an editor at Orion Magazine, shared that perspective to open a talk with Rebecca Solnit and Robert Macfarlane on the power of nature writing.
“The world outside was my salvation, because I wasn’t so good at the social,” Solnit shared during the talk. She referenced two books that burrowed deep into my soul upon first read: Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. Both writers take time away from what we call civilization, to live alone and observe nature in its messy, wild ways. Both books carved out space in my head and heart, expansive room to breathe beyond the daily duties of life in Los Angeles.
Even in the city, I find nature to soothe my soul, from farmer’s markets and community gardens to Griffith Park hikes. I recently visited the Borough Market in London, and walked its gorgeous, winding routes of food, sweets, and vegetables. Surrounded by buses and cabs driving on the WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET (thankfully, mostly due to the signs telling me to look right, I survived), the tube stations and busy trains, the gorgeous architecture the city, the market was a respite in the city, a chance to take in a little nature, the dark green of the avocados, the yellow lemons, orange persimmons. Next door I leaned over the railing to stare down into the garden at the Southwark Cathedral, its trees and bushes stripped bare for the winter, I watched for a bit, wondering what would soon bloom in the spring.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.
Perhaps you cannot take an extended break from your life, work, kids, cats, but you can create a Desert Solitaire in your own space, a place to drink in the beauty of the wild, the spare, and the original. What does your wilderness look like? It could be a small table devoted to potted plants and terrariums, like this gorgeous nook to the right.
Or if you have a wall to create a climbing garden, check out the tips and tricks over at Apartment Therapy.
And, best of all, if you have a place for a persimmon tree in your garden, you can add a little life and color to the cold days of late winter / early spring.
“Persimmon trees are really easy to take care of,” fruit expert Ed Laivo says. “They’re actually very adaptable to a wide range of soils, they’re disease- and pest-free, and basically drought tolerant after established.” Depending on your climate, persimmon trees can be planted in early spring or winter.” – HGTV.com
Check out HGTV for Laivo’s tips on how to plant your persimmon. You may have to pay a bit more for a grafted, healthy tree that will bud, letting growers like Laivo do all the hard work. He doesn’t recommend amending the soil, as “the roots need to adapt to the nutrients that will be available for the next 100-plus years. Instead, he uses other protective measures like mulch. Mulch helps to cut down on evaporation and also keeps the roots cooler in the summertime.”
We’re heading toward spring, and each day a bit more light is creeping in, giving us hope for things to sprout and grow. In that Orion talk on nature writing, Macfarlane mentions Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot.” “In the first act, there is a willow tree with no leaves,” Macfarlane recalls, “but in the second act, the tree has sprouted four or five leaves. … this moment of very possible hope. … Some of the work that’s emerging, [such as] Caspar Henderson’s Barely Imagined Beings, where growth and astonishment and wonder are weirdly reconfigured as kinds of virtue, I see Beckett standing almost at the beginning of that, these glimpses of hope in what is a very difficult context. We find ourselves back at the word ‘hope.’”
Where will you grow a space for nature in your life? How do you escape from the social and find yourself in nature, to dig around in the dirt, in what makes us human? Tell us in the comment space, or show us with photos tweeted to @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.