There is that moment that many of us have experienced, when walking through a city or down a blacktop road, when we see something small and green poking up through the cement. There it is, somehow alive despite the heat, the feet, the unforgiving weight of a car’s tire treads.
In that moment, a human might pause. There is something surreal in seeing a wild thing find its way in the midst of our best human attempts to keep nature at bay. We might question, for a moment, our relationship with the wild. We might even question all of our human aspirations. And those who see the world in terms of millions and billions of years might see a distant time when our human artifacts pass the way of all other things, into a world where new creatures rise up from the ruins and nature continues on its journey.
We can make a practice of this. Nature, after all, creeps into the cracks. And depending on our perception of the world, we can see this as beautiful or terrible. That dandelion reaching up through the sidewalk might delight one person, but send another into grumbling about how the sidewalk will need to be replaced.
It happens with spiders in our homes, and “weeds” in our gardens, and sunlight coming in through a window. Leaves on our lawn can become piles for children to jump into, or just another task for our lawnmower or rake. Even in our bodies, nature slips in. Lice or ticks are appreciated only by those whose minds align with the Buddha’s, but it’s easier to appreciate the millions of bacteria who inhabit our bodies and make digestion, and thus life, possible.
If you are drawn to the idea of nature finding its way past our walls, you might become a seeker of the wild in unexpected places. When you’re in someone’s house and see that spider in the corner, hidden where no one else will see, you can wink at it and share a moment of conspiracy. It’s a bit illicit, after all, to see such a thing and not report it to the proper people. The spider, however, probably appreciates your discretion. It will get to live out a little more of its life, and even though the house’s owner would probably squish it or vacuum it up, the spider is actually doing a service to the owner, silently capturing gnats and mosquitoes and cloth-eating moths.
Therein lies the secret. We might try our best to beat back the wild, but as often as not, the wild is quietly helping us out. Those weeds in our green lawn help the soil become more healthy, and bring in the butterflies that we appreciate so much. That virus that slips into our bodies strengthens our immune system (if it doesn’t kill us). And that small green thing poking up through the concrete? Perhaps it offers the greatest gift of all, which is a reminder that we have the choice, in each moment, to see things as good or bad. What we choose shapes our attitudes, and our attitudes shape our actions, and our actions shape our world. Perhaps that is reason enough to let that small green thing continue to grow.