Re: Frustration
From: Albert Harum-Alvarez (
Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 16:14:51 -0600 (MDT)
Jose Marquez wrote:

>I believe that we each have to do our part....but we do ALL have to do our
>part and that doesn't seem to be happening!  I hope that cohousing can be a
>force for increasing unity of purpose for our species....for without unity
>we will destroy our planet Earth.  Any ideas out there?

Dear Jose (March),

I appreciate your sentiments, and I often share them. At the same time, 
there are some analogies to our current state that can provide some 
insight. What follows is nothing brilliant, but, here goes.

The acre of land from where I'm writing is called the Jungle Branch, and 
much of it is jungle. But it was a quite different place as little as 
eight years ago.

 A solid canopy of Poincianas (flamboyanes) covers about half the 
property. Seven large live oaks reach between them, as do four gumbo 
limbos and a handful of young Dade County pines. Brazilian pepper covers 
a pile of rotting logs.

Before Hurricane Andrew, virtually none of these large trees were here. 
Instead, fifty to eighty year old pines dominated, with an understory of 
palmetto. Andrew killed every one of these pines. They are the rotting 
logs under the Brazilian pepper. 

Hurricanes have always wreaked this kind of destruction, and the forest 
has always come back changed. It's true that many of the plants that have 
done well after the storm are new arrivals, such as the poincianas and 
the Brazilian pepper, but this is South Florida, and new arrivals have 
been landing here for thousands of years. Even our venerable live oaks 
are immigrants from the north, and the gumbo limbos are refugees from the 
Caribbean who floated in at some point in the last few thousand years.

Yes, there are many more exotics than ever before, and yes, the rate of 
change in this 'jungle' has increased exponentially. Yes, now humans, not 
hurricanes, are the most potent agent of change. But the underlying 
processes are the same, and the vigorous vitality of this new jungle, its 
life force, is as awesome as ever.

This is the life force that my family wishes to harness, and in times of 
chaos and destruction, that force seems to be even more present, as an 
aid to the creation that must follow the destruction. After Hurricane 
Andrew, in the midst of the wreckage that left me lost in the 
neighborhood I grew up in, unable to find my way to my house only a few 
blocks away, with trees totally stripped of leaves and some totally 
uprooted, something incredible happened. With autumn approaching, these 
trees bloomed.

Many fruited before dying the following spring, and they left seedlings 
to take their place, all six months out of synch with their normal 
seasons for bearing fruit. And an incredible number of trees lived, with 
their roots pulled up, and grew back into object lessons in perseverance.

When I'm feeling the sentiments that Jose expressed, I think of those 
trees. These are rough times, and they'll get rougher. But the One who 
designed this place seems to have thought ahead in this regard. We're 
planning to put the next house in our little neighborhood right where the 
Brazilian pepper is, and we're planning to use the termite-proof Dade 
County pine logs that are buried there for the house's beams. In other 
words, we're planning to survive and even to flourish, in the midst of 
the chaos.

I guess I could have made this long response to Jose a lot shorter by 
just quoting that old saw: 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.'


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