I picked a delicate tree branch covered with voluptuous flower buds and put it in a vase on the kitchen table to watch it bloom. Nature is my therapy. To mitigate the chaos of current events, I’m forest bathing in the house, thinking of my home as my terrarium, trying to find the balance between the inputs and outputs in my personal ecosystem. Bringing living things in from the forest to watch them grow entertains me, soothes my anxiety and reminds me how small I am. Within a day a spider web appeared between the spindly branches, woven of fibers so thin I needed my reading glasses to see them. Have you ever had that experience where you put on your readers to see something up close and the detail you have been missing is jaw dropping? Usually, it’s lipstick smudges on a glass or dog cheese on a window. In this case, when I inspected the spider web, I saw a grove of tiny lichen sprouting from the bark on my blossoming branch, a fractal of the vast forests of lichen all around me, and I was comforted by the order of things.
I need order. I’m obsessive-compulsive about the structure of my visual field, my kitchen cabinets and my desktop. I make my bed every day. I do dishes after every meal. You might think it would be cool to live with a manic cleaner. But I’m also a thrower away of things, a disappearer of forgotten impulse buys, a stower of detritus like guitar picks and flashlights. Asymmetry disturbs me. My new partner’s placement of things often conflicts with my Dewey Decimal System of stuff. But I see he’s not rebelling. Order doesn’t occur to him. Just as I seek freedom and peace of mind in the order of things, I’m learning some people are simply born free.
Order comforts me with a feeling of predictability that gives me security, because I can make sense of it. I see a legacy of order in the buds and baby lichen on my branch. For billions of years, Nature has been evolving toward greater efficiency, sustaining increasing complexity by managing with just a few simple rules. Balance. Diversity. Regeneration. I can settle into those ideas. A branch of blooming flowers on my kitchen table reminds me what’s real. Earth is my terrarium. I’m living in a recycling system so refined that I have yet to fully comprehend it. Science seeks the order of things. We humans are inseparable from the air we breathe, the water alive inside and outside our bodies, and the soil substrate of life. Science is guiding us toward more positive feedback loops between our inputs and our outputs.
I sip my coffee and aspire to more positive feedback loops in my life just as the sun hits the spider web and reveals the elegant geometry of its strands. My spider is an artist. We co-exist in my kitchen. Nature. A grove of baby lichen on a slender branch. Hmm… Some days the chaos freaks me out. Other days I see the order of things and realize that chaos is just a pattern I fail to recognize.
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