Friday, July 3, 2015

Mulberries and Dead Ends

These are black mulberry seedlings.  Every Memorial Day, purplish black mulberries rain onto our deck and yard, splattering.  The birds, opossums, raccoons, rats and squirrels feast for the first four weeks of summer.

What are left are millions of mulberry seeds, whose seedlings emerge like a carpet in our yard and garden about two weeks after the berries finish falling.   By the time they emerge, their primary root is 6 inches deep, taking advantage of every resource the soil has to offer. Getting rid of the seedlings is a chore in see, they have a nearly 100% mortality rate.  The mulberry seedling that survives is off by itself, in the shade of a garden plant, not competing with its genetic counterparts.

I work in very sensitive areas - urban, degraded ditches, streams, and wetlands.  Our team puts a nearly nonsensically large effort into treating our work sites with respect, and complying with Maryland's legendary and labyrinthine construction and environmental regulations.   When conflicts between government agencies, nonprofits, and landowners arise on these sites, the conflicts must be addressed.  I've spent almost 20 years doing just that, and yet, I was caught off-guard in January of this year by an allegation that while we had follow the letter and spirit of the law on a large job site, that it "might not be enough."

I still don't know what that means, but I spent six months at work and in my mind trying to sort out how we might rebut some very serious but indirectly delivered accusations from government scientists who don't read a lot of scientific literature and aren't interested in a debate.  Two days ago, some good actors representing the US Army Corps of Engineers came out to the site and worked with us to create a solution that would educate everyone (including me) as the site's recovery continues into the next several years.  The Corps themselves will buffer our work against the government staff who accuse us, but refuse to confront us.

The effect that this prolonged, obscure, un-solveable conflict had on my attitude, my creativity, my writing, and this blog was pronounced.  Through that period, I learned for the first time that the single emotion from which I cannot create new, good work is "fear."  Like most people, I can write in anger - though it should be advised against.  I can write from love, from joy, from confusion, from exhaustion.  But fear of an unknown resolution of a new type of (indirect) conflict.

My brain, constantly brimming with ideas that develop without much real work, turned, in anxiety and fear, to a landscape of mulberry seedlings.  Tiny ideas, most of them useless, all of them buried deep, all of them going nowhere.   Biological and creative dead ends.  I'm hoping that this week's change in political winds will bring me back to a creative place, and a place where I'm taking time off to spend outdoors.


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