The Orangeman was really excited to see me and asked me breathlessly, “Where have you been lately?” I filled him in about my busy life and work and then turned the table by asking my friend what all the hubbub was about? He knows that if I could I would spend most of my time down by the river and probably go completely native and become a river rat in the process. He also knows that if there is something not to be missed down by the Falls of the Ohio…that I would do my best not to miss it! The Orangeman explained that he had several things he wanted to show me beginning with a monumental discovery he came across in a discarded plastic five gallon bucket. This would be Exhibit A.
The slightly sun-faded blue bucket or pail was sitting on an angle in the sand…just as the river had left it. River mud and dirt more than filled the bucket up passed the midway point. Orangeman walked me over to the bucket and said “Peek inside and tell me what you see.” I did as he asked and more than a little perplexed I replied…”Well, I see a few small plants and vines growing in the dirt.” Orangeman groaned…”That part is obvious, however, the deeper meaning lies in how resilient life is and even within the confines of a plastic bucket…life wants to grow and express itself.” I had to admit that the Orangeman was making an interesting point here. At home, I keep flowers and plants in flower pots and other containers made for the purpose and get pleasure from seeing them thrive and be beautiful. What I hadn’t considered was the idea that any container also acts as a barrier. Life wants to join with life and be a part of the interconnected whole. The roots of these bucket plants were only going to be able to spread so far. Still, as the Orangeman explained…”The will to live and grow is strong even if there are limitations present. There was more to see and the Orangeman walked me over to Exhibit B.
I must admit that I was impressed by the second example that my friend the Orangeman showed me. In a shattered plastic drum, various grasses and so-called weeds were sprouting through a large hole in the top of the container. Years ago, dirt and sand filled the barrel through the actions of river water and wind rendering it too heavy to pick up and move. Different plant seeds found their way into the barrel and discovering this small niche…set out to colonize and thrive as best they could. Perhaps these grasses will find enough of what they need to move through their life cycle and produce seed for another generation? Or perhaps they won’t due to all kinds of other variables, but the point remains that life will take that chance.
I hadn’t seen the Orangeman in such a didactic mood before and I was impressed with his earnestness. Previously, he had struck me as a happy-go-lucky guy and not especially bothered by all the serious stuff in the world. I certainly was seeing a different side of my friend that I hadn’t seen before. We walked and talked together and before long reached the last sight he wanted me to see. We might as well designate this as Exhibit C of the day.
The Orangeman stopped next to an old discarded tire and with a flourish of his arms and hands and said, “Here it is!” The “it” part was a small willow tree that was growing through the center of the tire. I didn’t tell my friend this but, I already knew about this particular tree and another one I had discovered very similar to it in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. I had even photographed this very tree on several occasions. This is how it looked in late spring.
We had a relatively cool spring and it seemed to my eye that the plants at the Falls got off to a slow start. The willow-in-the-tire took its time ‘leafing out”, but eventually it did. Now I must say that a tree growing through the middle of a tire is a remarkable thing, however, there is more to admire about this particular tree. The Orangeman invited me to make a closer inspection.
Amazingly, this willow tree was growing through the holes in the metal wheel that were still in the tire! The tiny, wispy seeds from a willow tree must have passed through one of the holes and taken root in the mud and soil beneath the tire. Hungry and thirsty for light, the various branches moved through the holes. I told the Orangeman that this was indeed an amazing example of life making do in very unpromising circumstances.
I’m going to monitor this tree with the Orangeman’s help because I’m curious to see if it can continue to thrive and grow. Will it eventually lift the tire into the air like some perverse hula-hoop as the trunk thickens and becomes more pronounced? Or, will the holes in the metal prove too restrictive and choke the life out these branches? Or, will something else out of the blue change the situation? The river usually gets the last word and flooding could easily send a flotilla of battering logs the willow tree’s way. The Orangeman and I parted company, but not before I thanked him for his time. Indeed, he had given me much to mull over. The idea that life is very resilient and will find a way to endure was comforting to me…especially as the physical world continues to change around us.