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Weeding the forest

Yesterday I went down to my local National Park to help remove invasive species. Here’s a forest full of weeds, said Ranger John. Pull ’em. He made it clear that we weren’t eliminating the species, just controlling it. As I pulled, I battled the sense of futility and helplessness that I feel a lot these days. What does it matter whether I get all of it. I’m just making it easier for next year’s seeds to sprout or for this other invasive species to survive. And then the feeling of tiny actions having some down-the-road, unseen impact would resurface. I may not see the value of this now, but if I came back five years from now… and I’d try to just enjoy the beauty of the forest.

As Ranger John said in a followup email: “Garlic mustard eradication may seem like a daunting task, but your efforts helped us immensely towards reaching our goal of restoring native plants to the area.” There’s a lot of garlic mustard in my life right now. My research garlic mustard, the garlic of mustard of having the same struggles over and over in my marriage, of course the garlic mustard of my fears for the future of my country and, well, life on earth.

I took the family down to my state capitol for a local People’s Climate March. Since January I’ve learned that I am very picky about which things I will and won’t chant. Like someone started up with NO PIPES! And I was all, uh, nope, definitely need pipes. I’ve lived without plumbing, and it’s a drag. Not chanting that. There were only a few hundred people there–I guess people are tired of hearing about climate change. We already worried about that shit. Being upset about the destruction of life on earth is so 2010! I highly encourage you to read this paper, which details all the ways we convince ourselves we don’t need to act. Let me know if you can’t access a pdf.


Whatever your garlic mustard of the day, I wish you luck with it. Ultimately, I really do believe that small actions matter. You know what they say: Whatever you can contribute, do that. And it will help. Bloom where you’re planted. Unless you’re garlic mustard in the national forest.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good for you for doing something!

    May 12, 2017
  2. SRB #

    Well this is right up my ally, both as a gardener and a person who spends her volunteer hours working on wildlife and urbanization issues.

    Metaphor time! Invasive species are motherfuckers. Damn near impossible to eradicate without taking a match to the whole thing. BUT. Putting in the elbow grease to decrease their numbers is vitally important. Yeah, they come back, but less strong than the previous season. Every time you pull one (and you have to get the root), you make space for something that was meant to be there. Something that will thrive and be beautiful.

    Also, gardening is scientifically proven to lower stress. So even if it seems futile overall (it’s not), for that afternoon, you lowered your stress. Every weed pulled means a whole new forest can grow.

    Finally, fuck garlic mustard. And please folks, don’t plant phragmites even though they look pretty, mmmmkay?

    May 15, 2017
    • “you make space for something that was meant to be there. Something that will thrive and be beautiful.” made me cry…

      Funny, I noticed on my drive back from the forest that every clear cut turned subdivision it had a big batch of phragmites to soak up the water, because you know, there used to be a vital wetland up in that bitch.

      May 15, 2017
      • SRB #

        INDEED. Literally dealing with the Town and a national wetlands preservation agency over phragmites in a local nature reserve. Fortunately everyone is amenable to their removal, but they have to DO IT, you now. An actual case of killing it with fire.

        ANYWAY. Keep doing the things that give you feelings of control and serenity, for they are the sandbags in this storm of fuckery.

        May 24, 2017
  3. Andie #

    Hi Bunny,
    I think it’s important that you are doing something. It might be a small difference, but it’s a difference.
    (BTW, it was me on the last comment too, don’t know why it showed up the wrong name)

    May 17, 2017
  4. Winter Blue #

    Bunny! You are back! Thank God! And yes for depression this fall (and winter), and yes for small actions. And yes for your wise words – please, keep it up. I hadn’t checked your blog in a while, but on the heels of yesterday’s depressing announcement, I was looking for solace, and here it is… I’m in Canada, but you can bet I’m writing. And writing. And so is my US voting husband.

    In my best moments, I think this is probably the inevitable stumble on the road to true progress on climate action. But man does it suck.

    June 2, 2017
  5. I’ve been reading your blog only yesterday. What pulled me in was the image of the not successfully implanting egg with commentary. Thank you for weedin out my garlic mustard of sad resignation about not becoming pregnant and maling room for anger and action. Id doesnt sound so positive, bit instead of helpless, it makes me feel powerful to open up to anger. What Im saying is, thank you for your glum words 2010 and for all the hope your bunny family gives me.

    October 12, 2017
  6. Roccie rock a licious #

    Bunny. Y’at?

    March 21, 2018
  7. Kerstin #

    I was looking forward to a picture of your toes. (Well, that doesn’t sound creepy at all.) Our toes are the same age now. And one of us has been reading what one of us was writing for many years. Probably without ever responding. (Now that sounds rude.) What I really wanted to say: I would like to hear from you again. It was always a pleasure. (And I miss your statistics.)

    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland,

    May 6, 2018

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