If anyone tended the landscape of my childhood heart, it was my grandmother—the one who lived by a lake, where she cultivated ten acres of gardens, berry bushes, and fruit trees.
It was my grandmother’s cherry pie that led me to ask never for cake on my birthday—only for cherry pie. Today, I have two sour-cherry bushes that wave their blossoms outside my little Tudor in spring and, when I am lucky and it’s not a too-wet season, I get tart red cherries soon after. They are my way of remembering my grandmother.
Planting berry bushes and fruit trees are a great way to tend one’s land, while helping with climate issues at the same time; perennials don’t require repeated tilling of the earth (which releases carbon), and they help to “sink” carbon back into the soil where it can do good instead of harm. Plus, you can avoid buying fruit in plastic containers, which is always a great deed if you can possibly do it.
Some of the best climate work being done right now relates to both planting (and protecting from removal) perennial staple foods like fruit trees.
“Tropical staple tree crops can reverse erosion and runoff and create higher infiltration rates for rainwater. They can be grown on steep slopes and in a wide range of soils. They require lower inputs of fuel, fertilizer, and pesticides, if any at all.”
—EcoChallenge, on Perennial Staple Crops
Write a poem remembering one of your grandparents, or someone else you’ve admired (the way I admire Wangari Maathai), who has cultivated the earth either through planting things that belong to a place or preventing their removal. If you don’t know anyone who’s done this, use your imagination to become that person, and put yourself in the poem instead.
If you feel inspired, learn a little about the perennial staple foods that belong to your region, and put one or more of them in your poem. My grandmother’s house had huge mulberry trees all along the drive. She did not plant these. She simply kept them. And we enjoyed the juicy result.
Dwelling as preserving
Dwelling means knowing
what inhabits a place
and understanding that
which belongs to a place.
We cultivate what grows,
while building things
that don’t grow.
We seek the organic
in our own creations,
which are inorganic.
Imposing our will
on the landscape,
we can remove either
that which promotes capacity
or that which prevents capacity.
We are tenders of the garden,
we tend what needs tending
(heart or “langscape”)
What we save remains—
—Scott Edward Anderson, from Dwelling: an ecopoem, Shanti Arts Publishing