Discussing how an experienced gardener prunes back the limbs of a new tree, Michael Pollan says:
Sympathy allows the green thumb to cut the tree's limbs back hard -- that, and a sense of where a plant's "being" resides that is very different, I think, from the novice gardener's. The inexperienced gardener is loath to chop away at his new tree (indeed, to prune in general) because he assumes that the tree is indistinguishable from its limbs. This is probably because he looks at a plant more or less anthropomorphically -- by means of a mode that, though useful in some respects, fails to take account of those parts of the plant that don't, like [people] stand on the surface. Later, if he gardens attentively and sympathetically, he'll develop a more complicated and less anthropomorphic understanding of how, and where, a tree lives. He'll probably come to think of the tree as having something akin to a soul that is distinct from its parts, and for which the limbs sometimes (at transplanting, for instance) represent a burden it might be glad to be rid of. If "soul" seems too mystical a term, think of it as simply the tree's life force, or the wellspring of its growth, what Dylan Thomas called its "green fuse." Imagine this as the fulcrum of the tree's roots and its visible parts, something located maybe just below ground level, and pruning will no longer seem cruel, but beneficent, a form of relief and a spur to fresh growth.
Now, I have no idea if there is any "scientific" basis for these notions of plant identity, but I can't say [that] I really care. It is enough to know that since I have begun to imagine my plants in this way I have had more success with them. The successful gardener, I've found, approaches science and folk wisdom, even magic, with like amounts of skepticism and curiosity. If it works, then it's "true." Good gardeners tend to be flat-out pragmatists not particularly impressed with science.
~Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
I think that's about right. It's true not just for successful gardeners, but also for successful Witches and other magic workers. If it works, then it's "true."
I love this passage for the way that it shows how difficult it can be for anyone to really be in relationship with nature and not turn into a Pagan. Pollan starts out pragmatically talking about how a gardener should prune a transplanted tree -- and then the struggle starts. He resorts to words like "soul," realizes that sounds "woo-woo," tries to step back, and walks straight into words such as "life forces," "wellspring," and the language of mystical poetry. Finally, he gives up and says it: magic.
In what way(s) has your relationship with nature been an active one today? What do you know to be true because it works?
Picture found here.