Mining the World

On one of my final days before moving out of the condo I had lived in for the past 3 years, I sat on the back patio and stared at the back of the house. We were on the second floor, so I had to look up to see our kitchen window, illuminated by a soft overhead light and filled to the edges with plants. Their leaves and tendrils twisted around each other and threatened to exceed the small space we had offered them. I was excited to move my plants to my new home and have space for even more. That night the moon was halved. I looked around the space where we had hosted birthday parties and family gatherings, grilled, played music, sat in a kiddie pool and listened to cicadas and swatted off mosquitoes. My gaze came to rest on a cedar tree growing close to the base of the structure and suddenly my eyes began to water, and I found I was crying. My tree. I would be leaving my tree. I had this sense that it had become my job to protect the tree and now I was abandoning it. How strange, that just pure proximity had made this tree mine in my mind. As if I had claimed the land that it grew in simply by resting my head on top of it. Starkly, I realized this was certainly not and had never been my tree. If anything, I thought, this tree is not looking to me for protection, but rather looking at me as one more of a revolving series of squatters, encroaching on its root system, tying boats and bikes to its trunk.

Strangely, after seeing the backyard of my new place only one time, I had already claimed the tree that grew behind it as mine. I knew this to be true because I thought of it as, “my new tree.” This is all weird, I know. Why am I even writing about this? But I think it is worthwhile. How could I go so quickly from invading a new space to claiming it completely as mine? And how could it almost evade me that once I had decided to move on, I barely even thought about the elements I had previously claimed that I was now leaving behind?

I’m always mining the world. It’s not that I think I’m alone in this, but I do it, and unconsciously. It’s fundamental to our whole way of living to mine the world. I love my new place – I’ve strung my stuff all around it so that I see myself staring back at me in tangible form. The plants are my favorite. Yet, I don’t even pause to ask if they serve any other purpose than my happiness. Isn’t this kind of atrocious? How would it be different if I belonged to them?

Of course, I know objectively that they serve so many purposes other than my happiness. But I rarely pause to place myself in their world rather than the other way around. I’ve been thinking about this lately in my interactions with the plants (I don’t think this blog post would have come out of any time other than COVID days). This re-situation is easier with bigger beings, like the tree in the backyard. The tree in the yard behind the house where I now live is a maple. It has almost black ridges on its thick bark from age. It is full of cicadas and they are crying out so loudly right now, singing for summer. The sun hits the branches of the tree and spills shade over the green table. I realize that to not claim the tree requires a lot of prose. This is interesting. What was ‘my new tree,’ takes a new shape, its details emerge. I see it more clearly now. And I see me more clearly, as a changing being, without as much need to claim the boundaries of the space or the details of the moment.