25 July 2013

Why Chaos Always Wins

We humans are a controlling bunch. It's what has led to our success. We control our surrounding environment with shelter, with air conditioner, with fire and heat. We control our health with antibiotics and soaps and vaccines. We control our movements with roads. We control our food by cooking it, removing from it harmful things. We control everything. Or at least we try.

Even at work and in our family lives, we seek total control. We want to control our kids experiences, habits and personalities. We want to control our work, our employees. Our present, our past, our future.

Gardening can teach you otherwise if you open up and let it in.

There's a giant "gardening" culture, of course, that has grown around controlling nature. Mowing it. Trimming it. Fertilizing it. Spraying it with Roundup.

And sometimes I fall into that trap.

I love the Juddian boxes and straight lines of modern control as much as the next person, but really - REALLY - it's just a temporary constraint placed around a chaotic thing (nature) to make us feel like we control it. Like we own it somehow.

It's when I completely open up to the chaos of the natural world that I truly see what surrounds me.

Nature is not perfect. It's not controllable. Ask the hurricane victims. Ask victims of tornadoes and fires.

Have you ever been completely floored by a storm? You feel vulnerable. It's chaotic, and it's a big way that nature remind us that our piddly little controls are just that.

But nature can do so in subtler ways too. Look for the hackberries coming up everywhere. The ragweed taking over the creek. The beggar's lice moving in. The shrub growing out of control in the corner. The ornamental tree that isn't growing the perfect way you hoped it would.

The past few days, I've been meaning to get out and trim some Gregg's mistflower that is consuming a little bluestem and sideoats grama that I planted. I really want the grasses to succeed, so the Gregg's has seemed to me like an unwelcome bully. Even though I put it there in the first place.

Today, I was going to come home and trim it back. "Oh yes," thought I, "I'm in control."

But then.

Then, there was a Queen butterfly nectaring on the wispy blue flowers. Flittering as I walked by. Nervous by my shadow. Then, there was another one. And they danced above the mistflower, talking to each other in butterfly language we will never understand (no matter how much we try to measure and control it).

In the end, at least for today, the butterflies reminded me that chaos was their friend, and that I am but an interloper.

11 comments:

Lancashire rose said...

I control, I lose control, I control, I lose control. The definition of insanity. When you keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result! That's my gardening stye.

Kit and Kaboodle said...

Beautiful post. Thank you for the reminder.

David Cristiani said...

I agree that there is the want to control, the degree of that control varying by person. But it seems that what looks like chaos is simply processes looking like disorder, settling into order.

Heather/xericstyle said...

Deep....thank you. I struggle with this so much....

I want to let so many things be....BUT somethings I just can't. I do want to help my child learn how to handle difficult situations with grace...as best I can. If I can...I do want to tell them how to have an easier time of things and not just watch them get hurt and learn "the hard way." I don't want to let the weeds choke out the plants I put effort and money into planting that look pretty. I do want a loss of control in some ways....because then I would not have that native verbena....

I wonder sometimes if it is possible to have balance...or if it only ever is just perception anyway....

It is not easy learning how to be human ;)

Joan Phillips said...

I planted my raised beds, then left the country for two months travelling. Luckily we had a rainy spring/june but that garden has been producing and still is beneath all the weeds (which i think are giving good sun protection for my herbs)..I picked tomatoes this morning. From afar it looks lush and green, close up full of weeds and tangles, but it's doing it's thing and I love it. Benign neglect. That is my gardening motto. Love your blog.

Vicki @ Playin' Outside said...

One of the few times I hate being "taught a lesson" is when the teacher is a butterfly.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Malcolm in Abilene.

misti said...

I think every gardener can relate. I planted some tithonia too close to my Texas mountain laurel and now it has been shaded out a lot this summer. Of course the tithonia have now had broken stems (deer I suspect) so I've had to trim those back from their previous glory.

Gardening is a process and sometimes it isn't the process you had in mind!

e. said...

My sentiments exactly! > http://expedeherculem.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/reflections-on-meeting-a-grey-owl-early-in-the-morning/

Hong said...

Great!

Judi Gustafson said...

Thank you for reminding me that beauty & growth come from chaos!