Tag Archives: Park

The Honeysuckle

“What are you looking at?” The honeysuckle is loosely pending from a tree in front of me. Its gentle rocking in the wind just now has suddenly stopped.
“I was appreciating the scent of your flower”
“Staring and appreciating my smell? You haven’t even asked! Nor did you introduce yourself. What if I don’t want to be smelled? Did that ever cross your mind?”
“Errr… no. It didn’t occur to me that…”
“That what? That honeysuckles may appreciate some private space? Well of course it hasn’t. You were probably already considering picking my flower, weren’t you?” Its static demeanour is replaced by wild gestures of its many branches at once.
“Well?”
“I wasn’t, but now that you say so, actually that’s not a bad idea.”
“Not a bad idea? Not a bad idea? May I be so blunt as to ask you what makes you think it’s a good idea to rip my branch off and leave it to perish slowly without my consent? Who’s the creepy one here?”
“Well, you know, when I was a kid, I had a honeysuckle bush in front of my window. On a warm night, the scent would enter my room. It was calming. Your flower would remind me of that for a while.”
“Are you comparing me to some punk grandpa-suckle from thirty years ago? This just keeps getting worse. I’m a twenty first century cosmopolitan suckle. My scent is unique to me, and I’m proud of it!” Its branches now twisting savagely. “And back off a little”. You’re not socially distancing.
“I’m sorry?”
“You heard me! Two meters! I don’t want your germs. You’re not even wearing a face mask for Yggdrasil’s sake.”
“You’re a plant…”
“So? Do you think that just because I’m green and twirly, you have the right to infect me? You humans are all the same.”
“You don’t even have lungs!”
“No lungs, he says. And what happened to ‘Plants are the lungs of the planet’? Well? Or does that only apply when it suits you? When you can use it to convince your leaders to make a nice little park for yourself? When you need the oxygen?”
Slightly confused, I take a step back.
“But you won’t get sick of it…” I stammer.
“Assumptions! For months, you people have been going on about how many unknowns there are with this virus, and how you shouldn’t take any risks. And now that someone asks you to step back, there’s no threat anymore? Haven’t you seen some of my leaves? They’re brown! I’m in the risk group.” The plants’ branches are now dangling, some draped over the park floor.
“Honeysu…”
“Don’t you honey me, mister! I’m not your honey.”
“Suckle”
“Don’t even dare.”
“I didn’t notice your brown leaves. Sorry.”
“See? That’s what I mean. You’re all over my looks and my great smell, but when it’s about my hurts, no regard. I just serve your purpose.”
“We’re in a city park. Everything serves a purpose here. We keep the city going. Without you, this would be some apartment block. That’s the bitter truth.”
“These trees and the grass over there have a purpose. Not me. I’m just hanging around because a bird once dropped my branch and I shot roots. I’m a survivor.”
“But you aren’t weeded out. Because people enjoy you.”
“And I feed your butterflies. But do you see any butterflies? You lot keep chasing them away. With your smelly nose hairs. Scaring off my only chance to procreate. Thanks, man.”
“Is that why you’re strangling that tree?”
“I’m holding on to it. The other day, some kids ripped two thirds of my body away and fed it to their dog. I need to take care of myself. If this tree is too weak for a tiny plant like me, it doesn’t belong in this world.”
“You know they’ll cut you away if you keep winding around that tree, don’t you?”
“Are you threatening me now?”
“Just warning.”
“So. If I let go, I get killed by kids. But if I hold on, I get killed by park maintenance. Are you even listening to yourself? Why aren’t you stepping up against that? How can you live with it? Is that how you lot treat each other as well?”
“If your purpose cannot be explained, then yes. People get shunned to disappearance. That’s fairly normal human behaviour.”
“Bleak… I don’t want to be treated that way. I just want to hang around.”
“I mean, not everyone is like that. Many people try their best to help others. And a lot of us lead a reasonable life, even if our need and qualities aren’t always fully appreciated. It’s not that hard to ascribe yourself some purpose these days. And some of us are woke.”
“What’s woke?”
“I’m not sure. It’s like some heightened awareness of the struggles of minorities.”
“Good! You guys could use some more of that. With all of your pride.” “But don’t we all have a bit of struggle from time to time? What’s your name, actually?”
“Emperor Zork.”
“Emperor Zork…”
“Just call me Zorky. Anyway, if I see you all happily crossing the park, I find it hard to believe you have struggles. You can go anywhere you want! Have you ever seen how big this park is? I can only dream about growing to the other side without being shredded to pulp. But if you tell me you treat each other the same way…”
“What about that time you arrived here? Wasn’t that a nice journey?”
“That wasn’t my choice! That was a blackbird’s. It pulled me out of my old home and dropped me here. I almost died! Now I need to grow here.”
“Would you like to go back?”
“Sometimes. But then I wonder what that would solve. Us honeysuckles are known for idealizing their original roots. Life in the forest was great, but it wasn’t perfect there either. We had lice outbreaks and trees falling on top of us. I’ve seen many close relatives slowly get eaten alive. At least here they spray you with some toxic if you don’t manage to repel them by yourself.”
“And those brown leaves?”
“They’re not that bad. I could easily shed them, if I needed to.”
“So why don’t you?”
“Hmm… Good question. They don’t really bother me, I guess. I like them, actually. They’re a part of me. And sooner or later, they’ll fall by themselves.”
“O. Is that like Wu wei or something?”
“Whu what?”
“This Chinese philosophy. Action by inaction.”
“Never heard of it. I don’t think us honeysuckles do anything like that. It’s more like an internal thing. Drop or don’t drop. A matter of preference.”
“I think Wu wei was inspired by plants, actually.”
“And there it is again. You see us do something, and then try to copy it. Our ways don’t belong to you. Find your own ways to act or not act.”
“Or maybe you’ve just infected our thoughts with your great way of being natural.”
“Don’t call me natural. I’m far from it.”
“The what’s natural?”
There’s a silence in which Zorky’s branches hang still, then make some sudden movements, then hang still again. Then they orient themselves in a different direction, then they hang still once more. All at once, they sink back to the ground.
“Honestly, man, I don’t really know anymore. I’ve grown distant from it. This whole combination of brains with opposable thumbs has turned everything upside down for us. If I see those joggers sprint through the park with their bright yellow headbands, I do wonder, sometimes. What are they trying to attain? I mean, truly. They could have just gone hunting for a deer, then they’d have all the exercise and the food they need. But when I then think about the lice in my youth, I kind of understand it, you know?”
The branches move a bit again. “I guess nature isn’t much more than a state of surrender towards death and suffering. Culture postpones death. Hides from it, perhaps. Gives it a place, at best. Even rushes it sometimes. Nature embraces death and moves on.”
“Do you think the two are opposites?”
“What’s an opposite?”
“Ehm…” This time it’s me who struggles for a bit. Zorky would probably be able to describe my gestures better. “Mutually exclusive, but still sharing some core identity.”
“What? I mean, how can that be?”
“It’s like being on the other side of the same road.”
“Can opposites hear each other?”
“Possibly. I don’t see why not.”
“Well, I think it depends on which direction you go on that road.”
“Say… To the future.”
“Then yes, I think they’re on the same road. For now at least.”
One of the branches moves upward in my direction.
“Here, take this flower.”
“Thanks” I pick it. “That means a lot.”
“Put it on your ear or something. It’ll help you cover your smell. A hedgehog once told me you’re supposed to suck on it. But we don’t do that.”
“Good tip.”
“You should go now.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
A few meters above us, a butterfly messily pushes its brittle wings off against the breeze entering with the night.
“Pardon” it announces. In a deep, resonant voice.

Inner Revolution

On the train platform of Circular Quay a cockroach is crawling in my direction. It seems to be normal here. This animal would easily survive the downfall of mankind if it were to happen soon.  I am alone because I left a group of fellow young environmentalist professionals who went to eat at MacDonalds. Can you blame a hungry lion for killing prey?

Things here at the congress are moving fast. Two  unspoken questions reside in our midst: are we really so good ourselves and aren´t we preaching to the choir? Reaching out is the YPMC´s main task here. We are exploring the ways. How do we take our accruing knowledge out of this inbred crowd, how do we go beyond the given pathways, into the world that does not seem to care? Do people who don´t really exist? I guess that what we really want, is to help others realize that deep inside, they do. Care. Most are merely numbed.

The Congolese minister of environment, great guy, told me yesterday that in order to halt poaching in his country, it needs a citizen movement. New laws are valuable, but not enough, we all need to want them in place. It´s beautiful to see that the trends expressed on this congress match with the mind-set of the visitors. The bottom line: the problems of today concern every single one of us. All people have to be engaged, all should be involved, regardless of culture, gender or any other type of background. We all need to want to obey the rules we set ourselves. Most know it: the system is broken and we are part of the problem. I bought a ticket to this petrol-driven train device with beer in my belly that was flown here from my neighbour country on the other side of the world.

A citizen movement. An inner revolution. That´s what it needs. And it is happening: Barcelona and even Brussels had hundreds of thousands of people on the street some weeks ago. Perhaps linked to this congress, there was a new climate agreement between China and the US very recently. Australia announced a new great barrier reef project. Results of long, hard fights, supported by our presence.

Humanity is bettering. Without knowing precisely what it is, we gradually commit ourselves to the good.  We are heard. It is felt. Governments and people are approaching each other. A new world order is forming and it is one that listens to people´s needs,  not our greeds. The movement is inside us and around all of us. Our influence to shape this order is here and now. All we need to do is keep joining in and keep figure it out. Do something different sometimes. More now than then. It has started, let´s keep it going.

Appearances

Walking through the Flevopark I saw this scene and took a picture of it. It shows a tree that has fallen down, lifting its roots in the process. The roots have ripped along a mat of soil from the ground, revealing disturbingly well arranged bricks. The tree, no longer standing, is now growing branches from its trunk. Out of the view jump an awfull lot of questions and speculations into my mind.

One might ask why the tree fell over, since it doesn’t seem too heavy, but you’d immediately answer: because as you can see, it barely has roots. True, but why is that? It seems obvious at first: it could not grow roots because of those bricks. Then again, why did it not simply reach through, disorganize them, and find its stability deeper down? Those little seedlings below sure didn’t have a problem with that. Well, one could answer, it did not root deeply because it was positioned at the height of the water and it did not need to look any further. In which case the bricks may have nothing to do with the downfall whatsoever.

What are those bricks doing there, anyway? They can’t be there for long yet, because they’d have had too much time to sink away or lose their structure. But someone arranged them there deliberately. Why? Surely not to support the establishment of the vegetation? Are those bricks under the entire park? And what are they lying on? Sand? Concrete?

Will the tree survive, now that it has claimed a bigger land? Will the branches form new stems, and will the stem grow new roots? Was this all part of its plan? I doubt it. Even though I admire the trees courage to keep growing after this disaster, I suspect the water will quickly suck its way through. It is probably rotting already, on its way to be pulp in a few years.

So what are we looking at here? Is this humans millionth failed attempt to do something constructive with nature? Is this a painful proof of how we don’t even manage to keep our city parks in one piece? Is it a millionth tragically failed attempt of nature to make something out of our ridiculous inventions?

Or is this a success story and am I missing out on something essential? If you have a clue, please let me know.