While I strive to perturb the wilderness around me as little as possible when I’m out in the wilderness, things couldn’t be more different when I’m working on the farm. This double standard is one I think a lot about, and eventually I’ll work up the gumption to explore it in depth. For now, though, I want to focus on a single agricultural intervention I’ve been undertaking for the last few weeks — pruning fruit trees.
Like driving tractors or building little structures or tending to irrigation problems, pruning is one of the many things I do around here that I don’t really know a whole lot about. I just happen to derive a lot of joy and fascination from staring at branches for hours on end, and so my more knowledgable colleagues are happy to step aside and let me go at it.
If you’re like my coworkers — a normal person who’d rather not perform the same simple action ad infinitum if it can be avoided — you may wonder what it is I find so enthralling about the act of snipping twigs. After all, there’s really not a whole lot to it.
The short answer is that I enjoy playing God. The slightly-longer answer is that, when I’m strategically removing parts of a fruit tree, I feel like God because I’m basically taking the helm of my little corner of the universe, diverting its limited resources along xylem and phloem highways as I see fit. With each cut, I’m changing reality forever in accordance with my own supreme will.
Balance Of Power
Of course, I’m being somewhat facetious here. Truth is that the tree really holds more sway over me than the other way around. Sure, I could chop down the plumpercot with a chainsaw in about ten seconds, but if I want to be eating plumpercot cobbler in a few months, I’m going to have to subject myself to the tree’s needs. My divine caprice will have to take a backseat to considerations such as maximizing solar penetration and ensuring the angles of branches are neither too steep nor too shallow.
So instead of quasi-omnipotence, it’s really the balancing of power I find so intoxicating — the interplay of animate and inanimate, the give and take. As much as I change the trees while I’m out there, the trees are changing me, molding my muscle memory and my conscious decisions and my understanding of the Plant Kingdom.
Maybe we’re all gods in a certain sense, trees and humans alike. Maybe we’re all creating the universe together.
(Today’s photo of the Andromeda Galaxy is courtesy of NASA via the Wikimedia Commons. Our tax dollars at work!)