The Colonial Parkway, between our neighborhood and Jamestown, was closed during the recent government shut down. It was a poignant reminder, very close to home, of the pain and life-altering harm inflicted on millions of American families by the idiocy of a small group of self-absorbed political ideologues who have taken prevarication and short sighted self interest to a new level of social and political chicanery. My heart goes out to everyone across the country who suffered harm, in whatever form, over the last few weeks as a result of this carefully calculated madness. My firmly held belief is that enough wise and good hearted people have observed this psycho-drama closely enough to see the truth of it, and that will be reflected in the weeks ahead as we have the opportunity to vote our consciences.
You may be surprised to find political and social comment on a blog devoted to gardening. Or you may not, when you realize that gardening is a metaphor for living our lives. We plant, we tend, we encourage, we prune, and we weed. We water and fertilize what we want to grow, and we smother or pluck out what we want to discourage both from our gardens and from our lives. We very carefully choose what we bring home to plant in our gardens, and ruthlessly dig out those plants which don’t properly fill our needs.
Gardening is a political act. It expresses our belief in our own power to create the environment in which we want to live. It is an expression of our self confidence and our optimism; our hope for the future; our willingness to nurture something over time; and to create abundance we will share with others. It is also an act of social responsibility as we demonstrate our willingness to cut the grass, kill the poison ivy, pick up the trash, and contribute to the health and beauty of our community. Gardeners observe closely, plan, act, and deeply appreciate both the fruits of our own efforts and the abundant gifts of nature found growing in our gardens.
Which brings us back to the Parkway. Finally.
We missed our frequent drives through the National Park right outside our back door. It is a peaceful place, left mostly in the state it would have been after the colonists arrived- except for the modern road and bridges, of course. There are marshes, meadows, forest, the James River, public beaches and a private dairy farm along the route. It is a place to watch the full moon rise, the sun set, storms approach, and the seasons change. Drives along the Colonial Parkway are engraved into our routine; and their loss, though minor in the scheme of things, was a daily reminder of how all politics is local.
The Parkway re-opened on Thursday, and we made our first trip on Friday. The first surprise is that work along the Parkway didn’t stop while it was closed. There was evidence everywhere of continuing efforts to limb up trees, clean up brush, harden the banks of College Creek near the bridges,and to keep the meadows mowed. In fact, traffic was stopped while heavy equipment blocked the bridge as work continued. That means that local workers probably remained employed and busy during the shutdown.
The second surprise was the abundance of birds along the way. We see Canadian Geese year round in Williamsburg, but this was the first heron we’ve seen for a while. The birds had free access to the marshes, creeks, and the river even as the cars and buses stopped driving through the park.
The final surprise was our total joy in the drive. What had become routine was savored, seen with fresh eyes, and deeply appreciated. Disrupting the routine is good, even if the mechanism in this case was not. Every one of us has had our routine disrupted this month- and many of us have been threatened with even greater disruption to our lives and livelihoods.
Perhaps we’ll all take a moment to look around with fresh eyes, with gardener’s eyes, and spruce up our gardens a little this autumn.
All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013