Tuesday, October 30, 2007

even in the green house

Myra Eddy loved green things–plants in particular. She thought she would enjoy her new job working in a greenhouse, but upon actually spending time with the plants, she could feel their pain and alienation. They weren’t plants; they were commodified civilized accessories. They didn’t even know they were alive. Indeed, they barely were. They were in pots too small, rootbound, roots girdled, crowded and sprayed, kept alive by toxic petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, chlorinated water, and an artificial greenhouse environment. All summer, the fans roared to cool off the greenhouse. It hurt Myra’s ears. The plants were overloaded, stunted and stunned.

All that changed one August evening. Myra was at home asleep. It was the night the Oil Peaked. In Tokyo, the price of oil went through the roof, shutting down their commodities exchange. The same thing happened in Moscow, Cairo, Berlin, Reykavik. By the time everyone in America woke up, the whole world had changed. Gasoline which the day before had cost a mere $4.50 per gallon was now $25 per gallon. It didn’t make a bit of difference to Myra, who had no car to fuel, only her body, but it did make a difference to millions of commuting Americans, especially those who neglected to fuel their gas tanks the night before.

With only expensive petroleum to fuel the economy, well, it didn’t last long. People simply could not afford to drive 50 miles to work and back for more than a couple of days, long enough to pick up their last paychecks. To make matters worse, a ferocious summer storm swept through central Illinois, dropping softball-sized hail and massive straight-line winds. People had a lot more on their minds than expensive petroleum and missing days in their cubicles.

The plants in the greenhouse were confused. They always received daily attention, but they weren’t watered for several days in the beginning of the Time of Crises. Many of the weakest plants withered to nothing in the August heat and humidity. Then the hail came and the winds blew. The hail crashed through the glass roof. Crash! Crash! The plants were shocked as shards of glass came hurtling down, with their slicing pain. But then, the rain came. It was cool and refreshing, drenching. The plants had never felt actual rain before, and they imagined this must be what it is like to be born. The sun shone the next day, and they stretched to the sky, and they realized they were alive.

Many tropical plants did not survive the first open winter, although it was mild. The big conifer stretched its boughs wide to shelter as many as it could. Just when the plants thought the end was near, the spring winds started to blow and the warm rain kissed their needles and bare branches once again. They grew. Their roots stretched forth and broke open the plastic pots which thought to contain them. Even the cacao tree, up on concrete blocks, reached down its roots to the concrete floor, littered with leaves and bird poop. It was manna to chocolate.

When Myra stopped in, years later, to see what had happened of the plants in the greenhouse, she was amazed to see that they were flourishing. The concrete floor was not discernable. Even the walls were barely standing. What with the changing climate, even the tropical plants were doing well. The lime tree was profuse in sweet blossoms. And Myra remembered the dismay she had felt when she worked there as a caretaker, and of the good thoughts her fellow zomban Badger had told her–even potted plants have the ability to break free and rewild themselves. She was glad at last it had been realized.

[I'm not sure what props are, but many of them go out to Badger, who inspired this vision in my summer of working in a 115 degree greenhouse. Thanks, bro.]


werebrock said...

i don't know what props are either, 'xactly, but props to Miz Eddy for surviving with the lime tree! i'm trying to figure out how i can grow Theobroma cacao (our beloved chocolate tree) in the middle of this USA-occupied land. first i need a piece of land, and then, maybe, a greenhouse...

Hakim Baker said...

In permaculture class we saw pictures of how Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute has a banana tree growing in their greenhouse. They pump warm air into pipes in the ground during the day, and pump it back into the greenhouse at night, to moderate the temp.