On my walks around Meeker Park this summer, I found a lot of people cutting the grasses around their cabins. These nice, tidy lawns baffle me. Why would you want to have a cabin in the mountains if you have to re-create your life in the suburbs?
I already have that suburban yard in Boulder—a perfect rectangle of green manicured grass with the right mix of bushes and flowers, all anchored by a few well-placed trees, pruned to the perfect shape. It fits in well with the rest of the neighborhood.
But I much prefer the randomness of nature here at the cabin: trees growing wherever they want, some with lopsided branches; flowers finding the best place to grow, without regard for the best spacing or color combinations; and grasses wantonly growing, sometimes waist high. Somehow it all works perfectly.
From my desk by the window, all summer and into the fall I could look down into the tall grasses and observe the comings and goings of small animals. Chipmunks, ground squirrels and rabbits dig their holes, munch on grasses and use the cover to hide from predators: hawks, coyotes, weasels, bobcats. If you mow down the grasses, you’re exposing them and also losing your own connection to these animals, because they’ll go somewhere else where they are more hidden.
For the past two summers, I’ve battled with nature to regrow this area where the septic system was put in. The first year, I wandered around Meeker Park in the fall, looking for seeds that grew in dry places, then patiently waited for the first snow and went out and scattered the seeds on the dirt. Just a month or so later I looked out to see the juncos happily eating the feast I had put out.
Last year, I thought I got smarter. I decided to focus on just one area, close to the house, and cover the seeds with rich topsoil that I brought up in huge heavy bags. So what happened this spring? Grasses grew everywhere except where I had tried to plant them—a big bare yellow spot among the green grasses.
Last summer when I was in Wisconsin, I noticed that every house and farm had the neatest and tidiest lawns I’ve ever seen, as if it were a state-wide requirement or shared obsession. Wisconsin long ago learned how to control nature—tearing down most of the woods to create farmland. Maybe there’s still some ancient urge to keep nature at bay and controlled, some fear of it overrunning civilization.
But here in the mountains, in this semi-wild place, what do we have to fear? These days I’m more afraid of the effects of civilization than nature’s wildness. I have more respect for the nature’s intelligence than I do for human judgment. Let nature run its course; it can’t do any more harm than we have to the planet.