Sometimes I hear voices.
Sometimes these are
Earth voices crying
in pain, fear, grief.
the wild beings —
minerals more —
scream in my head.
A few weeks ago, anger overwhelmed me when I heard the voices.
We had moved to the country, into the woods, so that we could encourage and, as necessary, cultivate a wild landscape around our home. For me it was about protecting and manifesting the gorgeous wildness of nature; for my husband it was to be significantly less maintenance (ultimately, we were planning for a landscape free from the need to use a lawnmower). For both of us, we desired quiet and solitude.
Then, my neighbor began “mowing the woods” across the road from our house (a swath a couple feet wide; the property was owned by a large farm, so neither mine or my neighbor’s), a place where wildflowers like Sweet William and Ohio Spiderwort and others show up unexpectedly … and delightfully. Not only was the mowing disruptive to the day, but I swear I could hear the voices of the wildflowers and other plants screaming their objections in death and dismemberment. I decided to protest his invasion of that particular space. He immediately became furious with me and the end of the conversation wasn’t pleasant.
This experience reminded me of a similar one in Maine where I was unable to protect the wild landscape. Our house there abutted a main roadway and, one summer, the county decided to widen the road. They cut down many large, old pine trees and destroyed a corner where we had lovingly planted a pretty Rhododendron, a gift from my father during an earlier visit. As they were cut down in their prime, I could hear in my head the pine trees shrieking.
I heard their voices, the lamenting and dying. But it wasn’t just this, I realize. After all, trees are cut for lumber and paper, plants are cut for food, etc.; the natural cycles of our world revolve around life, death, and rebirth. I give thanks each day for their gifts and honor their sacrifices. Here, it was the sheer lack of necessity, from my perspective, regarding what was being done that was so abhorrent. There was an added arrogant lack of respect for life and beauty within a wild landscape that I had chosen to protect and advocate for.
The mowing was simply because my neighbor didn’t like the looks of the wildness that edged our narrow, single-lane private road; it was partly this messy verdant landscape that had attracted us to this place. The widening of the road in Maine was simply to expand the shoulders; I’ve no idea why since it was a rural road used only by locals and in ten years never saw an accident.
In these two incidences, it was as if I felt the assault along with the trees, plants, and wildflowers. Maybe that’s why I heard the voices in my head. (I also acknowledge my own ego involvement, in that the mowing was an intrusion into what I considered my own personal space.)
Many botanical studies are confirming what indigenous populations have always known: that plants are sentient, they feel pain and pleasure, they consciously share resources. Plants may move and live in slow time, in deep time, but they are aware of life and death.
At times like these, I keep simple ceremonies.
May the spirits of the wildflowers and the other wild plants know that their seeds are welcome to settle in our yard. If I should ever need or desire to cull them, respect and gratitude will be extended to them.