I live in a deeply urban area; the buildings are several stories tall, parking is hard to find and often underground, and I have to drive to find a green space that I can’t see across. But as I was going to my car in the underground garage, the house sparrows that live there were singing up a storm, and the sound spoke of the onset of spring.
This wasn’t just a reminder that nature is “out there” somewhere in a pristine wildness independent of the urban density. This is my nature; this is my world, my bit of earth, my ecosystem. When I ground and center, tendrils of my roots twine around the rails of the Metro; I notice changes in the seasons in terms of the shops and businesses on my daily walks as well as in the plants and animals. I know the people at nearest stores, and waving a greeting to them gives me a sense of home just as checking in with the nearest trees does.
My home area is a wonderful example of the way that “nature” and “human areas” are not mutually exclusive; they are everywhere interpenetrating, coexisting and adapting, competing, cooperating, and thriving.
One of my friends was writing recently about how some people see anything that they don’t control as “weeds” or “vermin,” that is, things that need to be eliminated. I know some people think that way, but I simply can’t wrap my mind around it; it’s impossible for us to “control” our environments completely, even in the most monitored and managed areas. The house sparrows are a reminder of that, too – they love to live in conjunction with humans.
It’s true that most of the plants around here are cultivated, landscaped or manicured, but that doesn’t mean they’re controlled. They have their own lessons to teach me as spring starts to break out all over.
The plants around here are living within limitations; they grow and bloom, but they’re trimmed, too, shaped and directed in ways that they don’t get to choose. Even within those limits, though, they don’t just survive: they thrive. They live, fully and extravagantly, and even when they come up against those limits, they don’t let it stop them. They adapt, they cope, they manage, they deal. And frequently, they surprise us with the creative ways they do so; spring’s resurgence of vitality simply can’t be contained completely.
This is something I need to be reminded of, because I’ve been coming up against hard limits rather frequently lately. I need to know that it’s possible to be verdant and vital even while constrained.
The sparrows and the plants show me, over and over again, that life can find a way, and life will find a way.
So mote it be.