The sowers and the planters


Image from: Keri Smith, The Guerilla Art Kit, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2007.

It all started one afternoon in the library, many years ago. I was browsing through some books about foresting, and opened a photo book on the subject. Somewhere in the middle there was a picture of a man standing on the top of a hill. Curious as I was, my eyes followed his stretched arm and index finger, pointing at the green hill right next to it, offering ground to hundreds or maybe even thousands of trees. The comment underneath the picture read ‘This man shows us the trees he has been planting during his life’. Not only was I heavily impressed, I was flabbergasted, I was melting.

Later I was standing in the kitchen with my mother-in-law, and she told me the story of The man who planted trees, ‘truly something for you’. She was right, I was hanging at her lips.

But fairy tale-like stories were not satisfactory for me; soon I turned these things into practice myself, albeit on a very small scale. The railway verges where I passed by daily, got loaded with seeds of St.-John’s Wort, malva , evening primrose and their colleagues, and yes: it worked! I saw the landscape gaining colour, and becoming an attraction for butterflies, bees, and other crawling, flying and buzzing little creatures.

Next, during one of the editions of our Edible Brussels project, I heard a man tell about his favorite occupation: the reintroduction of the wild leek… in Brussels.

“Just a matter of leaving some tiny bulbs here and there”, he claimed.

At least as inspiring as that, is to me the story of a girl that went along on a wood walk:

“My father got nearly arrested by the police once on the road. He was in the car, window open, with a huge bucket of acorns by his side. You see, he collects those in Autumn. And when the bucket is full, it goes into the car.

-Ehm…Hmm… Excuse me, but what kind of filth is it that you have been throwing out of the window all the time, into the central reservation?

– Eh… filth? I am planting oak trees, sir.”

Some readers will laugh at the previous, and perhaps even say out loud that there are some surprisingly naive creatures on this planet.
Fact is: all this green is very much needed. More so: the green can make it perfectly without us, but it just won’t work the other way. Some people seem to be more aware of that than others.

In the seventies the foundation was laid of the Guerilla Gardening movement. They even invented ‘Seed Bombs’ to invade roof tops, fenced areas and hard to access spots with the green cure.

Even The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation gives sustainability a new dimension through planting fruit trees: oxygen, shade, decreasing erosion of the soil, and delicious, nutritious fruits.

But the seeds that have touched me most, must have been the tomato seeds that a friend took out of his pockets after the funeral of a very good friend. “Well, look what I find here in my pockets”, he said, “tomato seeds”. That’s about all I needed to realise deep inside that life went on, and that it was good.

And I still sow and plant… amidst the busy traffic, or when people look the other way for just a moment…

… who’s joining me?