Taking nature by the throat

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

By Rex Alphin

We pulled up to the gated community, stopped by a red-striped gate blocking access. A security guard emerged from the medium building, asking for credentials. The gate lifted. We were inside.

Immediately, we were struck by the meticulous order of things. All vegetation was directed. The pear trees along the roadside were planted, like sentinels, in direct proportion to each other — my guess was 20 feet from the center of the road and 15 from each other, squared with the curbing, their lives all started on the same day, and they were told to grow in like manner. There they stood, straight and erect, obedient to their command.

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Continuing on, the flowers were confined to their appointed places. The daisies were there, and only there. The tulips were here, and only here. Filling in all spaces between, like poured green paint, was fescue, cut to a uniform inch-and-a-half. Any competition, whether dandelion or onion, had been searched out like traitors and executed.

Cutting through the terrain were precisely ordered roads and walking paths, laid in red brick with a neat trim, like small picture frames, along all edges. The travel of water had been decreed, forced to spill over man-made structures, creating a continual gurgling resonance for passersby.

All trees, all plants, all structures had been envisioned, articulated, engineered and assembled according to a master plan. Stepping out of our vehicle, I was fretting the soles of my shoes may contain dirt, lest they soil the sidewalks.

As we left the community, the gate dropped behind us. A quick wave to the guard, and we were on our way. Turning off the main road, we ambled down a dirt path, half covered with rock and grass.

The trees were encroaching overhead, at their own pace, a mixture of hardwoods and the like, as vines drooped between branches and leaves scraped our roof. Big trees, small trees, whatever, in no particular order except their own.

Grass grew where it could, ferns grew where they wanted, leaves where they may. The forest was a hodgepodge of foliage, reaching and growing for sunlight, stretching out its roots, choosing its own path, deciding its own future.

I stepped out of our vehicle and got dirt on my shoes. It felt good.

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.