I wrote last week about the ironwood tree’s ability to nurture other young plants by fixing nitrogen in the soil and by spreading a canopy of shade. When I saw the predicament of this strapping saguaro I felt I was witness to a profound message expressed through plants, as if a universal truth had been granted physical presence.
This ironwood tree and the saguaro it has fostered are held immobile by their roots and their very natures and destined to this intractable situation. Yet exactly at the point of conflict, where the soft growth tissue of the saguaro strains against the iron-hard wood of the tree’s branches, a mourning dove has built a nest.
When I first saw the tree, the cactus and the bird, the dove was sitting on eggs. She eyed me warily but did not budge from the nest as I tried to make a photograph that could capture the paradox.
Haven’t we all been at a point in our lives when the attributes that have allowed us to grow and thrive begin to impede further progress? Young adults must leave home to build their own lives. Fledgling animals forsake the protection of their parents to establish new territories. Similar circumstances arise in job settings when the organization one works for no longer offers challenge or opportunity. And on the largest scale, I believe this is what our civilization faces currently in our relationship to the earth.
There is no longer room for our ever expanding expectations of rising quotas and extravagant comforts. Whether you look through the lens of energy consumption, food production, water use, toxins dispersed or carbon exhausted, we’re touching the limit of the earth’s ability to provide and absorb. On some level we can all feel the unyielding branches overhead.
And the dove? To me the dove and her eggs represent the infinite world of creative solution. I don’t know how the saguaro will survive its limiting circumstances, but the irony of a dove nest at this precise location speaks of possibilities beyond our own calculation. If this image can materialize before me on a random walk outside, perhaps there are answers in this living universe to problems that at first seem impossible.