I worked for a summer killing plants in California’s national parks. Our team drove around in the biggest Ford pickup truck one could imagine, loaded down with tools of weed torture – chainsaws, sharpened shovels, and the infamous weed wrench. While we were doing important work on behalf of native plants, I remember days when, after hours and hours out in the heat covered in the sap of some invasive plant, we would lament.
“The woolly mullein is such a soft and kind plant. I could kill Himalayan blackberry all day long, but mullein… Nope, just sad. You just rip them out of the earth by their floppy, soft ears. No tool needed. It’s just not right.”
Yesterday, as I planted some seeds in our backyard in Santiago, Chile, we were informed that we would be under curfew soon, that the window of time to return to the United States had closed, and that the government would likely require more of Chileans in the coming days and weeks.
It felt so good to take seeds out of little packets in the autumn cool. I pulled a few weeds to aerate the soil while the sun bathed our backyard in afternoon light, but I mostly focused on cultivating. The air, often polluted, was clear. I wanted to drive somewhere to get a look at the glacier that looks down on the city. If you catch it at the right distance and angle, it appears as if it might cast snow down from above. It must have been beautiful yesterday afternoon. As it sent its water down to a quiet, restless city of millions far below, I wonder if it thought of the soldier turning an ignition key in a military truck or me covering a cilantro seed with fresh compost.