Twenty-five or more years ago, I was born under a cabbage leaf into a family of nature worshippers. They were low-key about it. No robes, no chanting, no burnt offerings. My family joined the Sierra Club, the Save-The-Dunes movement, and the Prairie Path movement long before it was fashionable to be green. My grandma taught my brother and me how to identify poison ivy and what woodland berries were or weren’t good to eat. My grandfather told me what to do when a critter that might be rabid comes near. My mom made jelly out of wild grapes, black raspberries, and crab apples, using chokecherries to make them gel. We kids blackened our hands hammering open the walnuts for her homemade conserve. My brother was the rockhound; I was the bird nut.
Now I live in the city with conveniences like sushi and live theatre. But I haven’t forgotten birds, or wild grapes, and I don’t try to pet the coons and possums that raid my garbage cans.
My neighbors worry about school quality, McMansions going up everywhere, rising real estate taxes. I pay attention to how many pairs of nesting crows I can spot–more and more every year since the great West Nile plague of 2001, thank goodness. I worry about emerald ash borers, and my heart pinches whenever I see a big fresh stump. I plant crocus and aconite and scylla and snowdrops in my lawn because winter is too darned long.
I think the bare trees, especially big ones like cottonwoods and elms, look like the nervous system inside our brains. What if trees are the earth’s brains? As buds start greening up the tips of all those big bare trees, I imagine the thoughts nature is having with all that quickening leaf. Sap running faster. I feel the heartbeat of the world.