The Complexity in simplicity, simplicity in complexity…


Violet in Lawn copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

Clear, uncluttered examinations of ground and the heavens are abundant during the springtime. I am able to easily see the trash that either blew out of garbage trucks or were carried by hungry raccoons, looking for food remnants, into our adjacent forest preserve. This is the time of year that I do my volunteer cleanup, when the view is unobstructed with nature’s bounties. Trees are bare with just minimal green décor. The soil is bare or covered by a low-growing perennial groundcover, in my garden’s case the evergreen pachysandra, grass and occasional violet. So I find it ironic that at this simple time of year is when I feel the most energy when standing outdoors. The cool air and bright sun stirs my imagination of possibilities. This simple setting allows my mind to brainstorm complex goals for life as well as my garden. While I soak in the simplicity it is ironic to me that what I see is far from “simple”. Nature, as I ponder, is busy. Thousands of creatures some rooted and many winged, are stretching and growing and coming out of their winter dormancy. Multifaceted work is happening in this apparently uncomplicated setting.

Consider this passage from “The Art of Setting Stones” by Marc Peter Keane, from the new book “The Armchair Book Of Gardens, A Miscellany” by Jane Billinghurst:

  • Gardens heighten nature’s wild language by simplifying it…. We amplify nature’s messages when we build a garden and in turn the garden awakens us with those thoughts. Sitting and reflecting, drawn into the garden and out of ourselves, we find we are aware of familiar things in ways we weren’t before, granted, if only for a brief moment, newborn eyes.

Today’s my annual forest clean-up day. I pick up litter as I ever-so-slowly walk the woodland floor, placing each object in my sturdy contractor bag; too many times I’ve come upon glass and metal debris which would break right through ordinary trash bags. My work at first seems easy but soon I realize the bare forest floor has many layers and I find myself needing to hunt for a bright color or metallic reflections because there are numerous partly buried pieces of trash. I find myself distracted as I observe the layers of slimy wet oak leaves, decaying tree parts, tangled vines, and emerging garlic mustard. Ah, the garlic mustard and buckthorn are the current enemies of this “preserve”. I spend a few moments looking at the floor for signs of an early blooming skunk cabbage or if I’m already too late then perhaps I’ll spot some purple trillium or buttercup. I poke through the leaves to see if any animal life is evident in the small vernal pools just underneath. Perhaps this simple, uncluttered setting of springtime isn’t so simple after all.

Then I raise my eyes and see a squirrel high up in a tree watching me. Can’t help but think he’s sending me a silent “thank you” for my clean-up effort. And once again I find myself noticing the complexity in this simple scene. Too much thinking for this wondrous time of year.

Squirrel in Oak copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

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