Subtle Energy

Physicists tell us that thoughts, like everything else in the universe, are a form of energy. The more we dwell on something, the more energy we give it, and this energy spills out of us and into the world.

Yesterday I happened to see a deer and two fawns munching my agapanthus buds. I kept very still behind the window, and they did not know they were being watched. Eventually they moved off, carefully, gracefully, looking this way and that, before trotting across the street and disappearing into whatever hidden pockets they came from. It’s a miracle they are managing to find places to give birth, considering all the space we have taken from them. I regard my agapanthus flowers as an apology: the deer can have all they want.

It’s the effort that breaks my heart, the way animals make solid use of what’s left. At the nursery where I work, two house sparrows have made a nest in a privet topiary. From the birds’ point of view, the advantage of that dense green ball—excellent coverage—outweighs the disadvantage—foot traffic. Each time a customer traipses by, the mother, alarmed and fierce at once, flies out of the privet and onto a nearby roof from where she gives a series of warning chirps. This may not have been the best option available to the sparrows; then again, it may have involved more consideration than we think. Maybe our cooperation was something the birds factored in. Not only do we give that privet a wide berth, we have put a Sold sign on it which will stay in place until the young fly away. (We’ve also had to sequester more than a few hanging asparagus ferns—a plant to keep in mind if you’re interested in helping house sparrows.)

And then there are the baby katydids I find each year on the leaves of my lilac bush. There is just a handful of them, and they don’t eat much, certainly no more than they need, and before I have time to adequately admire their miniature beauty, they are gone.

In my collection SURVIVAL SKILLS, I explore the ways in which humans and the natural world intersect. If thought is a form of subtle energy, maybe animals, with their heightened senses, can tune into it. Maybe the deer I watch from my living room can feel my unceasing praise, and maybe this admiration strengthens them, the way love profits everything.

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“How Long Does It Flower?”

“How long does it flower?” I hear this question over and over, especially in the springtime when many plants are in glorious bloom. “A few weeks,” I reply, and the customers lose interest immediately. “Is that all?” they say.

“But look at the foliage,” I tell them, rushing to the plant’s defense. I point to a peony’s lovely-shaped leaves. “This plants stays lush and green until mid-fall.”

“Then what?”

“Then it goes into dormancy.”

“It dies?”

“No, it turns brown, but it comes back very early each spring.”

The customers shake their heads. “Oh no. I need something that stays green all year.”

“Well, you could plant azaleas or rhododendrons, or camellias.”

“Do they flower?”

“Absolutely.”

“How long?”

Basically, people are looking for eternal youth: a plant that stays beautiful forever. Mother Nature knocks herself out to give us breathtaking blooms, and we are not happy. Will we ever be? Will we ever look at the world, at ourselves, and see the hidden value?

Even more miraculous is a plant’s ability to come back from dormancy, to flower year after year. This is what our green world offers us: a fresh chance each spring to put things in perspective and be thankful for what is. What a gift.

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