Oct 29, 2007

Restoration is resistance

Saturday's really really free market attracted both regular attendees and loads of new folks, who were in Dolores Park for the conclusion of an anti-war march. Expecting a large turnout, market supporters brought along extra food, water, skills (like the stamp making skillshare above), and even pet rats for people to get to know.
I packed the bike trailer with 15 plants, 2 gallons of water, a gallon of sweet tea, a huge pot of mashed potatoes, and a bunch of SF ecology info. I enjoyed giving out the plants, and learned a lot by doing it. Folks always ask for specific plants, always stuff I don't have. I'm usually asked if my plants are edible. "Do you have any herbs?" "I'm into succulents."
I'm not complaining that people have interests, and I'm trying to learn from what I'm being told. I bring some aromatic plants (horkelia usually), some flowering plants, some trees. I try to bring at least a couple that will grow well in the fog belt. And yarrow has many uses.
But I'm shocked by how practical (and human centered) people's plant preferences are. But even that sentence is pretty comical: people's plant preferences are human centered... why is that shocking? I love restoration because it's not about people as much as it's about ecosystems, which, of course, people inhabit with lots of other life. But I guess that others may come to a love of ecosystems by way of loving plants that have human uses.

When I grow food, I think of it as a way of eliminating the transport of some small fraction of my caloric intake. And I know that all of the excess that I give away will encourage others to think about where their own food originates. But everything else that I plant is for wildlife. Someone at RRFM told me that horkelia looks like a weed... yep, many of our native plants have a scruffy look. But I don't plant for human aesthetics. I'm actually kind of sickened by overly ornamental gardens. And I figure that there are countless bees, butterflies, birds, and bugs that have a different kind of aesthetic, something less about visuals and more about smell and texture. Something that I don't get.
The aesthetic of a restoration site is most satisfying to me when I see bugs in the soil and hear birds warning of my approach. Coyote shit on my shoes is actually a bit delightful at first. And swarming yellow jackets give me a nervous smile as I pass apprehensively. That's beauty and utility for me.

I don't want to force that on other folks, but I hope to point out the existence of that perspective at least. Today I was able to alert a fellow dog walker to the shriek of a red-tailed hawk overhead. She thanked me and I remembered how easy it is to not hear these creatures over the din of cars and urban construction. Last week a study was released about the paltry amount of time that kids spend outside/in "nature". Like a lot of other folks in ecology, I hope that these little experiences (like planting yarrow or listening for red tails) translate to larger explorations of the outdoors.

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