Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Force that Drives the Water Through the Rocks

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My father was the first environmentalist I knew. Every day he and my mother put their daily newspaper into a brown paper bag and stacked it along the ever-growing wall of brown paper bags on the side of our house, until it was Paper-Drive Day at my elementary school. My father would fill the trunk and back seat of his car, and sometimes the bags would spill over onto my lap in the passenger seat where I sat with no seatbelt (I know I’m aging myself here). My class frequently won the paper drive, and as reward my class would win an ice cream party – individual sized plastic cups of vanilla ice cream with wooden sticks as spoons (oh, the waste that generated!)

At the news of oil spills or other pollution-oriented catastrophes my father would become outraged and exclaim, “Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity!” He would tell me all the things he did to conserve water in arid southern California where we lived, proudly declaring “And I even don’t flush the toilet after every pee!”

My father taught me that the earth was special, that nature could be magical. He held a spiritual connection to nature, which I couldn’t help but absorb. When my dad picked up bonsai as a hobby, he told me about a Shinto belief that spirits would find beautiful places in nature to reside. It was his goal to create a bonsai tree so beautiful that a Shinto spirit would honor and bless him by making one of my father’s trees its home. He seemed most at peace outside, planting and tending to flowers, concentrating on trimming his bonsai just right.

The first time my father and I climbed the mountains near our home, I was somewhere around 10 years old. I felt more than just accomplishment of the physical feat. I felt something other than father-daughter bonding. The mountains were special, and I experienced an energy, a sense of peacefulness. I, like my father, felt what I can now describe as a spiritual connection that I continue to experience to this day. A few phrases from Dylan Thomas’ poem, “The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”, come to mind when I try to describe the connection I experience with nature.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

This is why I try to protect and conserve when I can. This is why, before there was a recycling program at my office, I used to take home “trash” paper and plastic bottles to recycle at home. This is one of the reasons why I choose organic and locally produced foods when possible.

My father has an admittedly different view of organic farming. He was born in Shanghai, China and grew up there until the age of 13, when the new Communist leadership expelled all non-ethnic Chinese. In those days, Shanghai was not the budding industrialized metropolis it now is. People were poor, and farming was truly “natural”. Fields were fertilized with raw manure and there no chemical pesticides or anything else-icides. Everything that came out of the ground was so laden with parasites, it had to be boiled until it was tasteless mush. Even then, my father still became infected with tape worms several times. So, what is his viewpoint on farming?

Chemical fertilizers? Yes, please!

Pesticides? Delightful! I’ll take two!

Organic produce? Danger. Potentially life-threatening illness. I’ll pass.

Can I blame him?

Despite our different perspectives on organic foods, we still share that connection that guides us in making green lifestyle choices in an attempt to live more in harmony with this good Earth – so the water driven through the rocks, by that same force that drives my red blood, might run just a little bit cleaner.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Code Name: Mama and Hobo MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants.

(This list will be updated March 9 with all the carnival links.)


  1. Oh, what a beautiful story about you and your father. I wish I could meet him, he seems so peaceful.
    My family gave me the same respect for nature. Even in the middle of the city, most of our days were spent outside. Some of my favorite memories were times the 6 of us would pile in the car to drive to a small wooded area to hike or drive to middle Missouri to camp for a few days.
    My parents haven't been into organic foods in the same way either, but I know their gift to me of love and respect for nature was what gave me the connection I have to the earth now.

  2. What a wonderful perspective. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your father's history! Your connection to the Earth is something I want to foster in my own son, this helps me understand it from a child's viewpoint.

  3. This is such a lovely story, and it's great to hear the perspectives your father brings to environmentalism, borne out of his actual, first-hand experiences. I love that you feel such a spiritual connection, and the poem you've quoted is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. This is such a great post! I love what you dad taught you, and I find his viewpoint on farming really interesting too!

  5. It amazes me that people think that the earth is just the place where we live, rather than what generates life. We need to respect it.

  6. It's interesting to think about experiences like your father's because at one time I believe the chemicals we use were created with good intentions, fighting disease, parasites, etc. But now it's like chemicals gone wild! I wonder if there isn't some kind of balance between the havoc that they wreak on our environment and the benefits they were created to provide. Tricky.

  7. I love that you included the Dylan Thomas poem. That is one of my favorites. Our dads sound similar too, only mine took me out on the water more than over mountains. Beautiful post!

  8. Such a beautiful and moving poem about loving and respecting the earth! Thank you so much for sharing your father's perspectives with us.

  9. This story captures the magic not only in the natural world but also between yourself and your father. I can only imagine how meaningful it was to grow up with someone who had such a reverence for and appreciation of the earth both in terms of its wonders and ills. I am curious to know if your father ever felt that he had brought a spirit into his life through his tendings of his bonsai or if you feel that you have been blessed with such a presence. As someone who has always believed in plant spirits, I find this to be riveting.

  10. What a great relationship you shared with your father. I love the poem about respecting our earth.

  11. Any post containing poetry is a winner in my book, but I especially enjoyed yours. Thank you for sharing. Also: go 10-year-old you!! It hurts me that so few children get to accomplish a feat like that, feel a connection that big.