Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Diversity is the natural way to local

The hill in back of the house is covered with blooms of hoary puccoon, red (sheep) sorrel, bone set, and some recently blossomed yellow flower that I can't identify from where I'm sitting. The south side field is speckled with beardtongue and white sage. There's also a scattering of a variety of prairie grasses plus some feral oregano left over from a failed kitchen garden. I'm pleased with the diversity and the fact that everything growing here is either native or naturalized. Learning the names of the plant people that live in the neighborhood helps me feel more "at home" than when they were all strangers that I couldn't identify by sight.

hoary puccoon, purple vetch, sheep sorrel
hoary puccoon, purple vetch, sheep sorrel
Photo by J. Harrington

One of the signs of a healthy ecosystem is biodiversity. One of the signs of a healthy economy is a diversity of producers. I learned as a consultant that being overly dependent on one or two clients for most of a company's billings wasn't wise. Most landlords are uncomfortable if most of their square footage or units are leased to just one entity. Remember about "not putting all your eggs in one basket?" And yet we see farmers trying to emulate Henry Ford's manufacturing assembly line. (Avian flu anyone?) We see many companies trying to gain monopolistic control of their market. The Iron Range keeps emphasizing a return to its mining-dependant economy of the past instead of looking to a highly diversified future. Many of us seem to struggle finding a balance between familiarity and boredom, discovery and fear. I found myself this morning wondering if I really care whether my doctor is a conservative republican or a liberal democrat and if that affects the practice of medicine on my behalf. DO I want to deal only with those who share my values? I try to avoid purchasing products from companies that are known for damaging the environment and violating human rights. I am, as much as I can figure out how to be, a locavore. That means I need and want a diversity of local shops and neighbors to add variety to life. Fortunately, there's growing evidence that local foods can meet most of our needs and many of our desires.

almost like a Cape Cod beach
almost like a Cape Cod beach
Photo by J. Harrington

I'm still struggling with the questions of where is home, to which place am I native, can I, and how, become native to a place. If, as I suspect, the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean will always be my home of origin, just as we normally only have one family of origin, how do I make a home for myself wherever I choose to live? Do you remember the Stephen Stills' Love the One You're With? I think that  a large part of the answer to my questions can be found in the lyrics to that song. Part of loving where I am is learning who I'm with, what their names are, what they do, whether they're a human person or one of the other kinds of people that share earth with us.

The Local Language

By Ralph Angel 

The way she puts her fingers to his chest when she greets him.

The way an old man quiets himself,

or that another man waits, and waits a long time, before speaking.
It’s in the gaze that steadies, a music

he grows into—something about
Mexico, I imagine, how he first learned about light there.

It’s in the blank face of every child,
a water that stands still amid the swirling current,

water breaking apart as it leaves the cliff and falls forever
through its own, magnificient window.

The way a young woman holds out a cupped hand, and doves come to her.

The way a man storms down the street as if to throw open every door.

And the word she mouths to herself as she looks up from her book—for
that word, as she repeats it,

repeats it.


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