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Emails to my Therapist

Nature Is Winning at My House

Dear Nicholas, Yesterday in the hellish heat I ventured again into my jungle of a garden and found it overwhelming. Nature is winning on this little patch, a lot more vigorously than usual.

The ground is squishy with vole tunnels. There must be thousands of the little creatures swarming under there, eating plants from the bottom up.

It’s discouraging.

Always of course there are the deer and rabbits, ripping plants out of the ground, then dining on the more desirable bits. And the squirrels digging up bulbs. Squirrels or raccoons even ate my kayak this year–a little plastic inflatable stored in a shed.

And The Plant Monsters

Most fiercely aggressive are our two kinds of seemingly un-killable invasive plants. What I refer to as my garden is now mostly vinca major and Japanese bamboo grass. The wildlife turns up its collective nose at the idea of eating these.


nature is winning

Bamboo grass taking over

“Everything looks so green and grow-y,” my brother Harry observed here recently. Yes, like the Amazon basin before the fires.

The Heat, The Heat

Nature is winning at my house because it’s increasingly too hot out to for me to want to spend as much time as usual doing what needs to be done. That’s because Nature is currently losing at the planetary level. Losing and putting up a scary fight, with heat and hurricanes and rising water.

It’s really too hot now to play outside in the middle of the day. I have a theory that heat is part of the reason for the current popularity of TV series set in cold places: Fortitude, Shetland, Trapped, etc. I don’t see how construction workers, farmers, road crews survive anywhere south of Vermont. The weather is already unhealthy and the damage has just begun.

We do have a splash or two of non-green color.

I managed about two hours at dusk yesterday pulling up bamboo grass. And after a while, I felt a little less overwhelmed.

japanese bamboo grass


A Small Improvement Counts

The lesson I learn over and over in every area of life: jump in and begin even when it looks overwhelming. A small improvement counts. A small improvement can be so encouraging.

However, small efforts to stop global warming don’t seem to be doing the trick. It’s hard for me to understand how any of us can focus much on anything else. But I do that every day. I’ve read that humans are great at dealing with immediate risk and terrible at dealing with risk in the distant future.

Seems to me the timeline is getting pretty short now.


To help storm victims in the Bahamas

I don’t want to spend my life indoors. But I’m only doing the little things to help solve the problem. ¬†Beyond recycling, turning off lights, driving a 12 year-old hybrid, etc., what to do? The small daily non-radical actions are the only ones I know of that I seem to be willing to take. Big changes? Not making them.

Facing My Own Reluctance

For one thing, we could leave our cabin in the woods and move to town. That would cut down on driving. But I’m not going to do it. I love where we live. I’m not willing to make a sacrifice like that unless everybody else does, unless the whole world changes with me. Not willing to stop traveling either.

The Jerusalem artichoke is prodigiously fruitful.

I don’t want to make painful sacrifices that I don’t feel confident will do any good. But in this case, small improvements aren’t going to save the day.



So I guess it’s going to get hotter. And I’m partly to blame.

I Don’t Understand

How can it be that human life on Earth as we know it is in such danger and most of us are still busy running errands? I don’t understand this and yet I’m one of the billions who are doing it.

In one way I’m glad the heat is rising so fast. Maybe another degree or three will spur us to a unified wave of action. Or what’s it going to take?

I don’t know. I’m at a loss.



Yellow flowers, Jerusalem artichokes, white bowl





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  • Judy Carrino
    September 17, 2019 at 1:40 pm Reply

    I’m at a loss too. And it is way too hot for me to spend time outdoors, even if I could kneel and bend over to pull weeds. I have been trying to clean out my garage for 2 years, but since winter gives way to summer, with no spring weather in-between and there is no fall to speak of, I guess I’ll never get it done.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 17, 2019 at 2:30 pm Reply

      Cleaning out a garage probably isn’t all that much fun anyway, Judy. Besides, I don’t think garages are supposed to be clean.

  • Amey Miller
    September 17, 2019 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Wow, Peggy, we are so in synch! I was already in a bad mood yesterday, and then I read an excellent Rain Taxi review of Bill McKibben’s new book “Falter: has the human game begun to play itself out?” , and carried it with me like a stone in my chest all day. McKibben, rightfully, I believe, sees connections between our environmental crisis and the development of AI and genetic engineering, all related to “mercenary denial and plutocratic economics.” It is hard to imagine how we are “blithely” going along as if life is a reasonable thing to undertake in the midst of this coming and growing apocalypse. I am also struggling with stilt grass , voles and deer, all of which I take personally. I very much agree that our best responses on a macro level have to be communal, governmental. And on an individual level, as we go about our errands, our chopping wood and hauling water, we can also “risk delight” by staying in our houses and various other ways of choosing life. It’s all rocket science above our pay grade, but “love answers all questions that judgment fails to hear” as someone said once. . .

    • Peggy Payne
      September 17, 2019 at 3:54 pm Reply

      Thank you for encouragement to continue to “risk delight”, Amey. And for your comment which is a fine post in itself. Together we shall rise above the voles.

      • Peggy Payne
        September 17, 2019 at 5:45 pm Reply

        BTW, Steve Jurovics has an excellent book on faith and protecting the environment: Hospitable Planet.

  • September 17, 2019 at 8:05 pm Reply

    The perils of horta-therapy. The only other thing I’ve thought of is to vet candidates on their environmental concerns and intentions, send money, lobby and vote accordingly. I don’t think this’ll chane how we vote, but we could do more of the other 2 options.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 17, 2019 at 8:11 pm Reply

      I’m at the point of choosing candidates only on environmental issues, Bob. But again, I don’t think it’ll change how I vote. On the whole, hortitherapy is an excellent thing, I’m happy to say.

      • September 17, 2019 at 10:15 pm Reply

        I don’t spell good.

        • Peggy Payne
          September 17, 2019 at 10:49 pm Reply

          good enuf

  • Lee Grohse
    September 18, 2019 at 9:59 am Reply

    Same experience for me with the garden this year. Wonderful times in the early months with beautiful flowers bursting out and then those long days when it was too hot to do the upkeep ,and now my whole yard is overgrown and tangled like you describe. And since I no longer work and in recent summers have spent many hours per day outside, being trapped indoors by the heat is grim. I agree that our individual efforts to impact climate change are frustratingly ineffective. I am convinced that we can only impact this on a societal, governmental, global level. So yes, voting. And putting our money to work through financially supporting the right candidates. Like you, I spent some time last week reclaiming the land–pulling weeds and vines, taking up faltering plants like my tomatoes and peppers, and pushing the overgrown part of the yard back a few yards. As she does every year, Mother Nature marked me with the stigmata of Poison Ivy from wrists to elbows. It wouldn’t be summer’s end without that.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 18, 2019 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Yes, February was fabulous this year, Lee, a peak blooming month. And today the weather is humane. Happy untangling!

  • Ron Perkinson
    September 20, 2019 at 7:06 pm Reply

    I had been meaning to have a word with you. Get your act together. There are millions of people protesting your lifestyle today. A cabin in the woods! Have you no shame???

    • Peggy Payne
      September 20, 2019 at 7:29 pm Reply

      What are you, Ron Perkinson, a comedian?

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