A Collection of Odes. To Resilience, Weeds and Wishing Trees
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
The Planthunter Ode Project grows from the ground of gratitude. Since we launched it a few months back I’ve had the privilege of reading many delightful, profound, and entertaining words of gratitude and respect and wonder.
The Planthunter Ode project is ongoing. If you’re feeling the need for words, for a new vista, for creativity, reflection and fun, consider writing an ode and sharing it with us via Instagram (tag @theplanthunter and #theplanthunterodeproject) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d love to read it!
More info, including a writing guide, here.
Below are a fresh drop of odes from our readers. Enjoy!
Even though you don’t belong here
And I didn’t support you
Surrounded by red backs and other spiders I cannot name
You climbed up
Clung onto the only thing you could find
Last year you nearly died in winter
A tropical one at heart in a temperate Sydney storm
But this year I think you will survive
The Wishing Tree
To the Mountain White Gum, whom our family calls the Wishing Tree.
The half-way point on a lazy afternoon walk. Host to barbecues and birthdays.
A cluster of quartz rocks sit under your drip line, ready to balance the cast iron grill.
Branches dip down, lower than normal, low enough so we can hoist ourselves up.
Bare feet scale your wide, cold branches, gripping bark smooth and grainy like skin.
Mum leans into your trunk and listens to the sap flowing underneath.
My brother and I climb up into your leaves and observe the world.
Your trunk grows apart, and back together again, a natural window.
You are a constant in our lives, standing long before my dad built the house.
Standing by the fence, in the paddock, long after we’ve left.
The Garden in March
During a winter of illness and neglect, the front beds went wild,
grew green tangles of weeds and treelings to unpick.
So I begin, gloves off, head down, and kneeling
—they say you are nearest to God in a garden—
and like emperors of old, by a single
motion of the hand, I decide…
Live. Die. Live. Die.
Life to the butterfly-besotting frogfruit,
likewise to the unfurling flower of scorpion tail,
and the reddening leaflets of evening primrose.
Death to the nutgrass, the sneezeweed, the cudweed.
I work mind-blind, and by finger-feeling,
like an old woman dimly fingering
the sequined treasures of her youth,
and I swear my hands are as canny as
rootlets of the nearby oak, who are worming
their way to my water lines.
the tatted doily of sandmat,
here, the wicker-basket-bottom of buffelgrass,
the tangled fishing line of bermuda,
the chaff flower’s green netting.
I find scab-pulling-itch-scratching satisfaction
In dispatching them, with a twist or yank,
or a long unzipping of runners from soil.
I shake the clotted roots and demand back
the good dirt, before I make limp piles
of weeds like green pyres.
And I especially enjoy the scuttling of the oaklets:
reluctant uncorkings, how they pop from the earth each
still with its acorn encrusted with dirt—
a small submarine, or maybe, a black-clothed ship
that carried them to the loamy
underworld, and back—
and each so beautiful,
with its thin stem like a mast, and the still-soft
cotyledon leaves, twin sails.
I place them in rows on the ground,
like children of an enemy.
And then…the ebony. So young
and so well-defended, nothing
but a bristling handful of thorns.
Scrabbling, I find its tap root, like no limb I know
but sinuous and strong, and now scraped
naked-white by my trowel blows.
Metal to flesh. Metal to flesh.
It snakes down, and down, disappearing
in grim and compacted dirt, where this year,
I find, I don’t have strength to reach.
I can’t unseat it. Ignominious defeat:
I hack and hack it below ground, until
I’m thrown back on my heels when it snaps.
I rest on my…laurels. I’m returned
to earth, red and disheveled after wrestling.
Across the street, the neighbor’s child tightrope walks the curb
and gives me the side-eye, and I hear the rumble
of the trash truck coming. And yet
I’m not unsatisfied. I push handfuls of dirt
into the small pit. Maybe it will come back.
I’m fine with that.
Ode to Plants
In these uncertain and unfamiliar times, I find myself retreating to the garden, to the earth, more and more throughout my day. What was once a trip or two to the veggie patch, tending to the chooks and drinking in the deepening colours of a fading summer, has developed into a moment by moment opportunity to integrate my existence outdoors. Cooking dinner, bathing, home schooling and the general tasks of the day all seem to be undertaken with the earth directly beneath my feet.
For all of us, perhaps the most generous and wholesome action, we can offer ourselves and those around us is to awaken the senses of the body, which is calling us to return to the humble garden.
When we garden, when we tend to the earth, we feel…deeply. It is not a process of using limbs and digits to accomplish said tasks, but rather more a practice of opening. It is an extraordinary blessing that as I walk amongst nature, each of the senses within me are awaiting to be woken. The clammy heaviness of the soil on my skin, the smell of withering tomato plants as I rummage for fruit, the rising and fading away of the mudlark call are all known to me through these ways of relating to the world. It these doorways, these openings, that allow us to come into relationship with our gardens. It is in our openness that we develop a receptivity, a sensitivity, which invites us into a practice of knowing ourselves and the earth unto which we belong.
One could say that to sit upon the earth, to plant a seed, to tend the soil, is a most holy ritual. A practice of devotion in its most simple but necessary form. Through the ritual of the garden, through the movement and opening of the body, through the patterns of movement and opening within the earth, we discover unshakeable ground. A stillness. A place of rest, of homecoming, of breathing. Everything.
Each time we enter into the garden we also welcome ourselves. In all our patterns of beauty and decay, form and unruliness, grandeur and seeming insignificance we nourish and draw from that which is here to nourish. We rest in the felt sense of being nurtured, so we ourselves may tend more skilfully, more compassionately, to our inner and outer gardens.