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If gardening helps repair normal psychological wear and tear, what’s normal?

Can gardening help repair the “normal psychological wear and tear” of ordinary living? In the book, Green Nature, Human Nature, Charles Lewis, horticulturalist and resident scholar at the Morton Arboretum, a botanical garden outside Chicago, argues that it can. Lewis writes about plants the way a lover writes about a beloved early in the relationship—before any wear and tear takes place: “Whether in majestic or miniature representation, plants signal the presence of an unremitting life energy that pulses throughout the universe.” Lewis goes on to describe how we develop the eyes to see this life pulse—we learn to look at plants as more than material objects; we learn to see them as aspects of the universal life force.

I’ve been thinking about this as I plant radish seeds, and process the news—inevitable as it was—that Hillary Clinton is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

I’d rather watch radish seeds germinate than vote for Hillary Clinton. Like many people I know, the election of 2008 roused me out of a culturally induced political stupor. I began to believe that another kind of politics was possible—one that represented the views of ordinary people. I campaigned for Barak Obama. I participated in my first caucus meeting. I got excited, in a nerdy way, about “civic activism.”

But now, nearly eight years later, I find myself using phrases like “oligarchs” without blinking. Perhaps a better word is plutocracy—government by the wealthy.

I’ve never missed a presidential election; I’ve always voted Democratic but I won’t vote for Clinton.

Not because of what Republican staff members of “America Rising” may dig up—the “facts and factoids which can be turned into deadly ammo” against Clinton, as David Drucker of the Washington Examiner writes.

Not because she’s a woman either, but because her feminism falls far short of the critical analysis and related empathy for women, children and men necessary to steer a different course, one that isn’t headed straight towards rising sea levels, increased droughts, massive starvation and wars—to say nothing of warlike foreign policies that wreak havoc on communities on every continent, including our own, and feeble domestic policies that sell environmental regulations to the highest bidders.

Hillary Clinton, like Jeb Bush, is part of the plutocracy. As Lenin put it, here’s a case where we get to choose which oligarch will run our country.

I am counting on these radishes to ease my aching heart.

Hillary Clinton will campaign on improving the lives of ordinary people—she “slammed income inequality” in speech last month, reported MSNBC. The question Hillary hasn’t tackled is how we got to this point.

Writing for, Sam Pizzagoti argues that the “Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity”—the 171 page report published by the Center for American Progress that serves as the foundation for Clinton’s campaign–fails to ask about the actual economic rule changes that allowed the wealthy to “snatch up so much of America’s treasure.” It doesn’t explore banking deregulation, or the effect of NAFTA and other free trade agreements. It doesn’t analyze, in other words, how this incredibly wealthy class came into being in the past decades, including under the presidency of Clinton #1.

Back to gardening and the possibility that fascination with plants will soothe normal psychological wear and tear. Lewis writes, “Nature itself can entrap us involuntarily, occupy our minds, shut out daily cares, and allow us to become refreshed.” I agree. For a few minutes this afternoon, I stared into the trees behind our house, listening to a crow call. Something big flew into my field of vision. I didn’t move. As I kept staring, I glimpsed movement on a high branch, and noticed tiny yellow-green buds. For a moment, I stopped worrying.

Just because I stopped worrying doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about. My radish seeds can’t help me on that count, nor can the columbines that are about to pop.

A call from my daughter in Seattle made the difference. “Hey, Mom” she said, in the message I’m saving, “do you and Enrique want to come kayaking in Seattle on May 16? It will be pretty safe, there won’t be lots of arrests, and you won’t be the only, well, there will be other people your age.” Rising Tide Seattle, Green Peace, and a host of other organizations are organizing a kayak-flotilla to block Shell Oil drilling rigs from leaving the Elliott Bay terminal.

I don’t know how to challenge plutocrats. I do know that May 16 is the day to go kayaking in Seattle.

Emily Lardner lives in Olympia, where she teaches and writes.


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