The landowner surveyed the corner of the terrain to which he had long staked a claim. It was large. It rose steadily, enough to ache his legs and make him wise to its value. It was rich. There was a patch of vines, lines of timeless, overgrown olive trees. But much was lost to diversity. It all needed bringing to heel.
He craved order. As with everything, he wanted all under his control, for it to be right, neat, defined, contained. Everything could bend to his will, but if it would not, it would be felled.
But he could neither see the wood for the trees, nor the terraces for the growth.
He could not see the whole.
He did not see life, he saw chaos. He did not see impossibility, he saw opportunity. His eyes narrowed and he itched to begin. He had the power, after all. He had the will. He didn’t hesitate. Or doubt. He ruled. All would come to order.
He knew what he wanted to reap, but here was a weave of the un-nameable, the unwanted, the worthless. What he could not understand, what was not of value to him, would submit.
Out came the sickle, the saw and the scythe.
He began, down in the barranc where seven wild plum trees ranked against him. He plunged in, deaf to the damage, a trail of trunk, branch, fruit, flower and leaf in his wake. He cried in pain and anger when wood pierced his boot. For these were wild plums that bear thorns, spikes two centimetres long.
It drove him. He cut deeper, faster. Living things that could move did move, flying, running, hopping out of his path. Those that were rooted waited for him. There was dignity, but he could not see it.
He started to drown. He swam back out of the wilderness to breathe, to plan, losing logic to impatience. He brought more hands and they churned faster, unthinkingly, axing what even he had considered sparing. The old walnut tree that had seen 150 years of life on that land, crashed.
Mules were brought to draw ploughs and till the soil but all was bound by the life beneath, as much as ever there was above.
The landowner’s temper turned him to flame. He torched what he could not clear and the flames took hold and took everything, including the vineyard and the ancient olives.
So be it, he said defiantly, walking to the top again across the ash. It begins again.
He didn’t look behind him.
Down in the barranc the scattered fruits of the seven plums were seeding a multitude more.
Already the deep roots of all that had been were fired to new, stronger life.
My lament to living in an age when gentleness is not a mark of greatness. And my gratitude for living in a place where it is.