One of our favorite picture books tells the story of a boy and his father who built a cabin in the woods. They made it strong to keep the forest’s creatures out and constructed a tight fence around the garden they started. But everything went wrong. The digging and chewing of all sorts of animals weakened their chimney, breached their food supplies, picked apart their foundation. The man and the boy wondered what they were doing wrong. They wondered if the forest didn’t want them there. Gradually they learned to share the food and warmth of their lives. They were rewarded with the forest’s bounty and even better, with a sense of peace. (We can’t remember the title of the book, only that it was one we got out of the library over and over.)
I was reminded of that story, improbably, by a news item about a blueberry farmer who battled to keep gophers out of his fields. He gave up in defeat, afraid they would devastate his plantings. Instead the gophers are helping his blueberry crop thrive.
We’re all tutored to believe that it’s “us versus them” and we have to get our share. But that leaves us hiding in a proverbial cabin of ignorance, unaware of the real wealth around us. There’s a lot to be learned from gophers just as there is to be understood as we leave behind limiting terms like “pests” and “weeds” to discover a wider way of seeing.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Rainer Maria Rilke