I was out gardening before work again a few mornings back. The weather is changing, the first of our chooks is moulting… some things need to happen now and soon!
The vegetable and flower seedlings have been growing quickly. In went rocket, lettuce, kale, broccoli and hollyhocks. Not quite done, but well on the way.
The native plants have continued to sprout and grow, with ruby saltbush still the big success story. The biggest went into the ground this morning. Here they are in a bucket ready to travel. Those I planted earliest in the season are quite a good size now. In the site where council watering has helped them on, only one seedling was lost. In the drier site (further from home), about half have made it. Many non plussed cyclists passed as I planted.
One woman with a dog stopped to thank me and express her concern about all the newly planted natives that died when cars kept parking on them. We talked about what could be done. I was planting in a spot where over several nights someone stole the plants out of the ground–about 12 in all! So we talked about that, as she passes with her dog every day and notices things I also notice. She spoke of the bunting and how she had been maintaining it. It’s good to know and to remember that for every person who tears it down there might be several like this woman stopping to maintain it and being made cheerier by seeing it and understanding they have company in loving trees and plants.
Then it was clean up time. People dump stuff in the common land. Why is it so? Well, I extracted the plastic sack that was coming apart from its contents (old horse manure and sawdust, could be worse) and took it to the bin. If only those degradable bags were capable of decomposing in the sense that dead plant life decomposes.
Then I towed all the dead branches someone had piled around the base of one of my beloved trees home. Happily our ‘green waste’ bin for council collection is almost always empty. We’re big mulchers. We have worms and chooks and compost systems. So the green bin is there for rescue missions, and its contents can go to be composted by council.
Last time someone dumped in this spot, They left a huge pot in several pieces. Only one small piece was missing, so I heaved it home and glued it together. It seems to be holding, so one big ugly plastic pot that is doing a great job of holding a plant, got placed inside. Definitely an improvement. While I did these things I thought about what it means that people dump things on common land here. Is there something about this site I could change, that would make this a less favoured location, for example.
I have been thinking a lot about the injunction in Indigenous law to recognise that we are interconnected–earth, animals, plants, sky, humans, stars, wind… I’ve been wondering what would follow for non Indigenous people if we tried to live by the core principles of Indigenous law in this country (as best we can understand them–and recognising this will always be partial) instead of thinking of Indigenous principles as a curiosity. A bit like a religion you don’t really understand but that you can acknowledge exists and holds meaning for others. This is preferable to outright hostility, and growing up in this country I have seen that hostility and disrespect for Indigenous Australians since I was a small child. But it is still pretty impoverished as a way of thinking our relationships to the land, its people and its law. Continuing with this thought experiment, I was trying out in my mind what it would mean to think of this tree as a relative in some profound sense. I am sure it would mean I wouldn’t choose this spot as a place to put rubbish. Respect would surely be part of that relationship. I have been thinking about relationships and what they can mean. I wondered whether I could draw strength from that tree as well as plant an understory that might protect it a little and clean up the mess passing humans leave. I thought that I could and that I do.
If we are all part of one another (and this is something I believe on many levels), surely it follows that I don’t get to pick and choose. I have often thought one of the profound things about Indigenous life prior to colonisation is that an Indigenous relationship to land is a profound and permanent thing: each person who belonged to a place would have expected to live there for their entire life and die there. Something so profoundly unlike contemporary Western lives lived with the capacity to leave your relatives, your place of birth, everyone you have ever known and choose not to return. If there was no picking and choosing, if we are all interconnected: what is my relationship to these people who leave what they don’t want on the commons of our suburb? What obligations do I have to them? How should I think about them? I don’t have any answers, but some days I think I might be on to some decent questions. That I’m wondering in a productive direction. I hope so. So I gathered more saltbush berries and kept thinking.