Wednesday, May 12, 2010


They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
~Counting Crows

The other day, I drove through Riverside, Washington and noticed a string of beautiful blue flowers growing in ditches and lining a chain-link fence near a trailer park. On closer examination, I realized the flowers belonged to the brown camas plant. Of course, the camas root holds a central role in the customs and traditions of the local tribes, and yet no one seemed to recognize its value before bulldozing the entire field.

Then just today, I found myself hiking in the wooded area behind Whitworth University and discovered a small patch of sage behind the water tower. It felt like a happy discovery, though I couldn't help but think how rarely anyone seems to notice the small wonders of nature. The landscape surrounding Whitworth supports a remarkable variety of sacred and medicinal plants, but as the university expands, native vegetation surrenders to concrete and monotonous, water-needy fields of grass.

This model is totally unnecessary. We can learn to protect sensitive areas and to cultivate more native plants in our homes and public spaces. The human race has built up a multitude of faith traditions based upon a longing for paradise, and yet we fail to recognize the Garden of Eden all around us.

Arrowleaf balsamroot.

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