continued from previous
David stood in the middle of the square, allowing his eyes to slowly process the new landscape that had formed around him: anywhere he cast his gaze, it was chaos and carnage. It was a disheartening picture to see everything dismembered and scattered around the place. It looked like an abstract painting that could have been named “the battle between green and brown”, as if an angry Jackson Pollock had selected just two colors on his palette and then proceeded to fling paint indiscriminately on the canvas in whichever direction, in order to create his abstract masterpiece: a chaos, just like the drawing on John’s living room wall. Previously a manicured garden, David’s patch on the square was now back to square one again. The garden had become a magic picture: occasionally a green splotch in the painting would resemble something remotely referencing a leaf or a stem, then it would disappear and go back to being just an abstract green splotch.
In his quest to replicate the random power of nature, Jackson Pollock must have at some point channeled the same energy as a hurricane: raw, spontaneous, angry bursts of color that didn’t bother to hide behind the carefully engineered pretense of a brush stroke. The color splotches followed the much more basic, yet sincere, rules of physics instead, as they fell wherever they liked, however they liked: on the canvas, down on the floor, the ceiling, on the artist’s clothes. On the artist’s nose.
Coming down to the square was a big step for David. Although his eyes were already processing the landscape around him, his heart was still not ready to accept it. He may have found the strength to come down and inspect the damage, but to him it all felt like he was grieving over Petunia all over again.
Almost everything had been flattened by the hail. The mud had waged war on the battered carcasses of the plants, who had been reduced to tortured skeletons of stems without leaves. The naked stems stood silently in the mud, waiting for their juices to run dry in the heat as they endured their own silent funeral: without the company of birds, bees, or other life forms. Their roots had already suffocated in the thick mud that the hail had churned when it bombarded the area. It was beginning to turn into a hard clay in places.
But upon closer inspection, David noticed that the ground was covered all over with tiny two-leafed seedlings: those mysterious, anonymous, unwanted weeds that grow next to our potted plants, which we never let advance past the three-leaf stage. They were not supposed to be here. Like unwanted migrants, we complain that they shouldn’t be here: they should be back in their own country, out in the wild, wherever that is. Anywhere but in our expensive, store-bought sterilized compost. They don’t deserve this soil. We quickly erase them, never getting to see them blossom, never getting to see what type of “weed” they will become: a clover, a daisy, a dandelion, a wild poppy. They are just the seeds that were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the “untouchables” in the garden’s social caste system.
Yet these untouchables were the promise of a new generation. David kneeled down to observe the tiny seedlings. Suddenly, they looked different in his eyes. They were the only obvious life form in the entire square, besides the palm and the yucca that had survived yet another storm. Standing proud and optimistic, hungry for the sun’s rays, the tiny seedlings were full of hope and vigor. They were a symbol of hope itself, of the future. Of survival. They were the children entitled to their existence, like all children, whatever world they are being brought into.
David took the hose and started misting the area in all directions. “Let it grow” he whispered to himself. “Let ANYTHING grow, please”, he muttered again, as he let the mist douse him down as well. He had been transformed. He had finally realized the futility of trying to “rebuild” the garden all over each time, hurricane after hurricane, hailstorm after hailstorm. He was not God. He was not the one to decide what plant goes where, who is a weed and who isn’t, who gets to live and who is terminated.
The weeds from now on would be his new adopted children. He would allow them the right to exist, and he would nurture them and love them in much the same way that he loved the petunias, the nasturtiums, the genetically engineered marigolds and calendulas, the oleanders and bougainvilleas. Some of the weeds would grow into beautiful wildflowers, attracting bees and other pollinators that benefit all the other plants. Some of them would become tasty salads for the snails, ensuring the soil is kept healthy. Others would become nesting places for butterflies to overwinter their eggs, so that there can be butterflies next spring.
Yet others would simply exist. They wouldn’t have a purpose. They would just add to the beauty, the diversity.
David gave the garden a good watering, knowing it was now in good hands. It was in the hands of the EoT, like all of us. David realized that he was never really the gardener in this square. He was not the one in control. He was simply a naïve, perhaps selfish facilitator: a temporary disturbance in the ecosystem, a force that came, acted and then went away, allowing the system to return to its original destiny. He was much smaller than he had thought he was. And he didn’t want to be the one to stand it the EoT’s way anymore.
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth)
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George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books