Twenty years ago in the spring, the blooms created such stunning avenues of faded petals that I would imagine Arthur and his Knights riding through like some scene out of Excalibur. At one time, rows upon rows of Apples went off in straight lines, long corridors in the fall were lined with rotting Apples. Even then, the grassy bits between had become long and shaggy, and it was well into its decline.
Today, the place is almost unrecognizable.
This is a secret place, a place for dog walkers, nature lovers, the birders. It’s the sort of place that once I enter my mind is washed of the anxieties, the politics of hopelessness and all the myriad pinpricks are washed away in the slanting sunlight.
“Skip, skip, skip to my lou” was the tune that was dancing in my head as we made our way to this hidden gem. Hadn’t been in ages, and I was long overdue. You know, I really and truly was almost skipping. Almost.
“Disturbance plays a significant role in shaping the structure of individual populations and the character of whole ecosystems”.
:: [ ecological disturbance ] ::
So places are dependant on the ever-shifting wiles of weather, time and circumstance, and we are as much a part of our environment as every grassy nook and tree. Every Oak, Maple, every Sumac, every Aster, Goldenrod and everything that grows, breaths and changes through time is almost a metaphor.
It is the very diverse nature of humanity that is our greatest strength. The colours of skin, the languages, the landscapes, and cultures that give a richness to life that no homogeneous white bread society could ever hope to claim. There is no power in sameness. As beautiful as that orchard once was, with pink blooms dripping off the trees in long corridors, it is more now as it has changed, grown ragged and wild.
With blind allegiance to a fantasy, lately what I see are angry people who have turned to hiding away within the confines of their cyber neighbourhoods, sequestered in isolation, fueled by the dried ground of inequality and uncertain futures, by politicians who give little value to truth, and all that seems left is some garish carnival of illusion. A puppet master with his hand up the back of the clown.
As row upon row of Apple Trees fell, as those corridors became more blurred by this lush egalitarian wildness, each blade of grass gained significance. That tapestry of Beech, Maple and Oak, the dried seed heads whispering quietly to the golden grasslands, and the gentle stream loops around, creating a peninsula of diversity, like a hug from the divine.
It is diversity that makes great landscapes, that heals them. Homogeneous environments quickly become weak and need propping up as they are prone to crashing, and become susceptible to outside destructive forces.
We can be more. If we can recognize the strength that comes with diversity, richness of place born out of the humus of change and the landscape of history. Perhaps that is why these wild places within cities are so significant, as they teach us about ourselves. They overtime change and grow, ruled by the laws of nature, of gravity and physics, the language of the landscape speaks of the richness of place, and the natural capital inherent in that wild beauty.