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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

854: Somehow creatures learn to co-exist. Is there a lesson for humans here?

Day 854: Monday, July 18, 2022

Somehow creatures learn to co-exist. Is there a lesson for humans here?

July 15, 2022


In a few days my two grandsons will be together here at Starcross. That is a rare event, and I am looking forward to it. The older one is Damien who is 9 years old and has just completed a successful school year. The younger is Paul who is going on 16 months and who taught himself how to harvest strawberries rather than having to wait for someone else to get around to picking them!

So, this is the time for me to engage in that rather silly game which is so popular among people my age, wondering what the world will be like for them as they grow up.

I have hope for the next generation. For instance, my day began by eating a breakfast burrito prepared by three young neighbor children who are saving money so that in 2023 they can take a trip to Iceland. I have no doubt that they are going to be successful!

Sister Julie thinks of future generations in terms of a circle, where everybody goes through some of the same difficulties and has some of the same highpoints. I share her image except that I like to think of it more in terms of a spiral staircase where as we make our circle, we somehow make the world a better place. There is absolutely no evidence that either of us is correct. So go ahead and join the game and come up with your guess as to what life will be like for today's children when they are grown up.

I find some similarities between the world that Paul and Damien will be inheriting and the world I stumbled into. I was born in 1931 and we were just two years into the Great Depression which lasted until I was Damien’s age. Then came World War II. There was also the polio pandemic and various other unpleasant surprises. For Paul and Damien there continues to be the multiple variations of COVID, the realization of the inevitability of disastrous climate change, inflation, regional wars, etc, etc.

It seems to me that a common interest between my ancient generation and my grandsons’ emerging generation has to do with growing food. Back when I was a child everyone had a garden. It probably started with the fact that during the depression it was the only way some people could put food on the table. Then during World War II all the food was rationed if you bought it in stores so “victory gardens” became common.

The same thing seems to be happening today and it's not just about inflation it has to do also with a better understanding of our relationship to nature and this can begin at a very young age. That brings us to Midsummer and the wonderful month of July, it is a magical time for the very young and the very old. And that brings us to Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).

One morning in 1863, as the sunlight crept down the streets of Amherst, Emily Dickinson looked out of her upstairs bedroom window and demanded,

"Answer July

Where is the Bee -

Where is the Blush -

Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July -

Where is the Seed -

Where is the Bud -

Where is the May -

Answer Thee - me -

Nay - said the May -

Show me the Snow -

Show me the Bells -

Show me the Jay!

Quibbled the Jay -

Where be the Maise -

Where be the Haze -

Where be the Bur?

Here - said the Year -"

July is a very physical month, and we want those sounds, sights, and smells. On our farm the budding has passed, and the harvest of most things is yet to come. This is a growing season. Bees and hay we understand, but what about “blush?” I think the poet had a sense that the lifeblood of nature is becoming apparent. The green berry, almost hidden under a leaf, is turning red. Streaks of color are appearing in the apples. Those who work the fields and gardens are themselves becoming ruddy. Our world is alive, and we should enjoy it for its own sake!

My bedroom window looks out on a gravel path going up a hill. Early one morning, I saw a young rabbit coming down the path and a born-this-year quail walking up it. They saw each other and stopped a few feet apart. It was a standoff. They had each been learning about life but had never encountered creatures who looked so different. There were no guidelines for such a cultural clash. They did nothing for a long time. Finally, I opened the window and the sound alerted the rabbit. He, or she, knew what to do and hopped away a few feet off the path. The quail kept going up the hill. I think they were absorbing all this. Somehow creatures learn to co-exist. Is there a lesson for humans here?

Enough of unraveling the complexities of life. Around me the fruit is swelling, everything is growing. Let me hear those bees! Show me those streaks of red! Bring on that smell of new-cut hay— well maybe not hay but lots of grass.

There is nothing that will excite the curiosity of children like watching the plants grow. Every day it seems like there are more little pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, more tomatoes on the vine, more string beans hanging down, more corn sprouting up.

I truly hope that all today's young children will grow up understanding more about their relation to nature and their food. Will it make a difference in the climate crisis? It might. But it will certainly make a difference in the lives of those young people as they mature. And for Damien and Paul, this is truly the time of the apple at Starcross. We will have a huge bumper crop this year. Fresh apples at every meal. Canned applesauce for the winter, apple butter and most wonderful — our own apple juice!

I certainly hope that my grandsons will think of the other children who inhabit our planet as they take baskets of fruit and vegetables from the orchards and gardens into the kitchen. It is very important they feel a solidarity with the children who are hungry and even dying of malnutrition.

Today I received information from the United Nations that in Afghanistan more than a million children are at risk from serious malnutrition. and the same can be said for children in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine and a number of other regions. 20 years from now the children who went to bed hungry are going to have a different outlook on the world that Paul and Damien share with them.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Director of the UN World Food Program for Afghanistan, puts it clearly, “Together we can end this hunger crisis!” The first lesson in realizing that our grandchildren will grow up with an obligation to feed all the children of the world will begin in our lush gardens. That is where you and I come in!

Brother Toby

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