Thoughts on nature in the urban

Minneapolis – Saint Paul
Minneapolis – Saint Paul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, snow falls persistently over the Twin Cities. It drifts. It obscures the snow, makes getting the mail in my slippers a toe-numbing business. It makes lousy snowmen. It gives us lots of reasons to post to Facebook and Twitter complaining about shoveling.

It’s one more reminder that the idea of urban life separating you from a city is a convenient lie. All the urban life does is brings you into an area where things that wish to eat you have to work harder to get at you. It’s still nature – just with less space between your human habitat and your neighbor’s. The idea of a farm as “nature” makes me slightly nuts.

Yes, that farm is full of life – animals pooping and bloody afterbirths, frosts and insects and weather as a primal decision maker – but it’s not nature. Those animals are domesticated or tamed.  Your pets and livestock might get eaten more by wild animals because their is more room for both of you, but let’s not pretend that the farm life isn’t just as artificial as the urban. The wilderness is, at this point, anywhere where we aren’t. If you’re manipulating the landscape in a significant, environment changing manner, you are separating yourself from the wild.

Nature will still find you. The wilderness has adapted – brown bears stumble into Saint Paul neighborhoods once every few years. At least once a year animal control has to remove a beehive from a downtown Minneapolis stoplight. Rabbits have learned to follow traffic lights to cross the street. A strangely large number of deer appear in Father Hennepin park during hunting season opener, once even staking out a mound between the other sunbathers.

According to the weather application on my Droid, the snow should linger through the end of the week. I hope this is one of those last, great final snowfalls that tend to happen in March. I’m still a bit scarred from 2011 when I got to May still waiting for the damn snow to stop.

It’s still strange to me. The memories are at last going vague, but I still have a few lingering from that faded life in Indiana, old images of a warmer, earlier season. I remember March being windy, but warm. Most snow disappeared by the last day of February, leaving muddy patches. I would revel in the warm weather, plant seeds, get muddy in my parent’s oversize backyard. Once my sister came at me with a garter snake on a stick. She meant to bully me with it, but I don’t fear snakes. She does. If I’d had a meaner spirit I’d have recognized that that gave me power over her. Some days I would try, and always fail, to fly a kite.

As an adult I’ve learned to count every day between each Solstice and Equinox. It’s powerful, how much difference one minute of light can make. Now even my partner counts it – the solar roofing has him fascinated with how much power we sell back to the power company, and on sun obscured days like this it means a lousy harvest for our home.

To deal with it this time I’ve ordered soy wax. I plan to make candles, stash them in the snow to cool, see what happens from there. I still have paraffin but it’s troublesome. First, there’s the guilt from using a petroleum product. Then there’s the other part: paraffin wax is a giant pain in the ass. You have to pierce, and pour, and pierce, and pour – and there is no perfect measure for getting a smooth topped candle.  I had hoped to get it from Amazon, with its faster shipping, but it only carries 1 pound bags of pillar friendly soy wax – or 50 pound bags. I settled on a place in Tennessee. Shipping is exorbitant but the price is fair.

I try not to judge my instincts, not the ones that prompt me to create things. I am making light to light the way to light. The snow falls heavy and dark – and I am making light of it.

It wouldn’t matter where I am in this part of Minnesota – farm, city, suburb – the sky is too cloudy, the snow too wet, the needs to great.

That’s nature.