Perspective, or, "Dad, Is that a Weed?"

September 15, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Purple NettlePurple Nettle

I was just reading a travel story by someone who visited Tasmania. She wrote:

Tasmania is a small island at the end of the world.  A nine-hour boat ride separates it from the rest of Australia. This isolation gives Tasmania the feel of a hidden country.  Tamar Valley, a small region nestled in Tasmania’s rolling  green hills, offers an ideal climate for growing berries, olives, walnuts, and wine. 

The writer's description was quite different from my vision of the hometown of the Tasmanian Devil.  I was intrigued. She decided to visit some wineries - of course, who wouldn't want that?  She went on:

But one winery was different.  The door was locked when we approached, and we assumed the winery must be closed. But a chubby man with a torn black t-shirt appeared in the window. He looked to be about 30 and his curly hair was unwashed and oily. He unlocked the door. It swung inward.

Rock music blared as we walked in. A long-haired man stood in a corner, breaking down piles of cardboard boxes. To our left was a blackboard covered with curvy chalk writing, resembling the menu in a college-town sandwich shop. The man cleared about a dozen empty beer and wine bottles off the desk.

Most wine-tasting hosts say, in well-heeled tones, "Let’s start with a Brut Cuvee."  Not this guy. He poured himself a Riesling and started rambling about the months he spent making wine in Oregon.  He ranted about American politics for a few minutes. Then he abruptly switched topics.

"You know, you gotta watch for the animals when you’re growing grapes here," he said.  “Two years ago, I lost $30,000 worth of crops to wallabies. To wallabies! Can you believe it? They find their way into the fields and chew up enough crops to pay a year’s salary. You gotta watch out for them. Watch for kangaroos, too. They’ll really mess your crop.” He poured us a drink without checking the label.

Well, I thought this was an interesting story, and it made me put Tasmania on my ever-growing to-do list.  Maybe someday you'll see this fellow's photo on my site.  Partly because I want some fabulous photos of him and his environment, but also partly because I want to hear his political ramblings.

wallaby But the story got me thinking about perspective.  I'm starting to realize that perspective determines the value of everything.  For those who don't know, a wallaby is a cute little critter that is very similar to the kangaroo.  In most folks' minds, cute and wallaby just go together.  Yet, here was a situation where "cute" was the last thing on this guy's mind.  Probably "shotgun" would be more appropriate.  (Not really - he mentioned that folks trapped the wallabies and drove them 30 miles away to let them go.) 

Perspective is matching the facts with the situation.  The situation can completely change the value of the facts, or the response to the facts. 

When I lived in Missouri, I loved it when a deer would wander into our yard.  How exciting, especially when cute little Bambi tagged along.  I would leave peanuts outside to try to attract them, and even considered buying a salt lick.  How could anyone ever want to shoot one of these beautiful creatures?  Years later, I moved to Lemont, IL, and decided to try a garden.  I planted a variety of veggies, including a couple rows of corn.  I didn't expect much, but the corn really took off and by August, I had quite a few nice sized ears.  I had built a chicken wire fence around the garden to protect it from the critters, and it worked great.  But just a few days before harvest time, I visited my garden to find the corn completely gone!  The ears had disappeared and the stalks were trampled.  The fence was also leveled, and deer prints were everywhere.  The sad part of this story is that there was a 100 acre field of fully grown corn just 2 blocks from my house.  But the deer preferred my few ears of sweet corn to that cornucopia of field corn.  That episode changed my opinion of "cute".

I loved the wildlife in Missouri - except for the squirrels.  They weren't  wildlife, they were rodents.  Vermin.  I started a war on squirrels, because they completely emptied my bird feeder within an hour of me filling the thing.  I tried everything.  I found that a squirrel could jump 12 feet from a nearby tree onto my feeder.  He would fall off 9 out of 10 times, but that didn't stop him from trying, and the tenth time he'd succeed in hanging on.  "Squirrel-proof" feeders merely slowed him down.  I finally called the local ranger at the Dept of Natural Resource and asked if he had a solution.  He said "Yeah, a 22."  Honestly, that's what he said.  My war didn't end until I moved away, and it left me with a hatred for squirrels.  Fast-forward to 2011, when Zonia and I visited Zion National Park.  The first thing we noticed here is that this is the home of the pet squirrel.  They are everywhere, and they beg like puppies.  And here I am, shooting them with my camera instead of my pellet gun.  We marveled at the tourists (including me) falling all over themselves trying to get a picture.  You would swear that no one had ever seen a squirrel before.  Perspective.

My first home in Chicago had a nice side yard with a lawn.  Right in the middle of the lawn there were numerous tulips and daffodils popping up in April and May.  Digging them up wasn't practical, so I just mowed over them.  I recall my dad watching me once and asking why I was cutting the flowers.  I told him they weren't flowers, they were weeds.  I thought, "What's the difference between a flower and a weed?"  I decided a weed is a flower growing in the wrong place. 

Years later, I had been blessed with two wonderful daughters of my own.  While we shared many likes and dislikes, one thing we did NOT share was my love of gardening.  At times I would give them what was probably their most hated chore - picking weeds.  I guess I should not have been surprised to be frequently called to the garden to answer their question, "Dad, is that a weed?"

 

 


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