Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Garden or a Jar in Tennessee

Invasive species issues confound and confuse, they provoke and enrage. Invasive species are wickedly complex and are a wicked inconvenience. The challenge of agreeing on what they, invasive species, are and what their impact is creates tension and disagreement among the various stakeholders. And since the definitions of invasive species are based upon acceptance of seemingly simple terms, such as ‘place’, the definition problem spirals out of control. The failure to define the underlying, moving context upon which invasive species issues are debated is compounded by changes in culture and accepted norms of understanding and comprehension.

A change in perception is taking place which influences the invasive species conversation. Natural area stakeholders conceive of their charges as places; traditional land use advocates and garden stakeholders understand natural areas through its contact with landscapes and gardens. History is with the traditionalists by definition. The space which defines the other, the outside, the beyond is the garden landscape wrought by the hand of man. When the efforts of man were dwarfed by the infiniteness of nature, the border of the garden defined the wilderness. Now the finite resource which is nature can be and is delimited by the work of gardeners, and in a twist on tradition, the garden is the artifice of Steven’s poem, A Jar in Tennessee.

A garden is a place which is defined by its boundaries. The root of the word garden comes from an Indo-European root which means enclosure, to grasp, enclose. A place with no border or limit is indefinable. A place is local; it is here. Nature being infinite is not a place, and is seen, comprehended, or understood through contact with human artifice. Culturally a garden defines nature; nature does not define a garden. A garden is like the far in Tennessee by Wallace Stevens, (Document URL: Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:28:57 EDT)

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

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