Welcome Strangers

Tomorrow we have our second session of Fantastic Beasts for the Home and Garden! The first session went really well - we got to try out the new Hyperspace platform through Hyperlink and the collaborative note-taking turned my syllabus into our collective thoughtspace.

To start the session, we all gave a small tour of our pre-companions, and we saw everything from Virginia cricket invasions to New York forests. During our discussion on New York trees, it was discovered that the city has a program to cultivate stewards of the boreal landscape.

Stewardship is a concept I am very excited about. Sometimes the term is used in a post-Eden sense, as in, “let us steward the land God has gifted Adam, our rightful domain to own and conquer.” I’m not into that interpretation or definition. Rather, I am excited about the prospect of mutual ownership between land and people.

Mutual ownership, reciprocal relationships, that’s what gets me going. This week I spent a few mornings ripping up old egg cartons to add into my apartment-scale worm-composter.

As I scrapped, I thought about how my day and diet had changed to facilitate healthy worms. I stopped drinking so much coffee and eating so much citrus, because worms can’t handle too much acidity. Less bread and milk and more fresh fruit and vegetables. Maybe I could’ve adjusted my lifestyle in the same way with help from a nutritionist, or maybe by finding a diet on Pinterest that sounded hip. I don’t think I would have been too excited to follow through with those options. Rather, through mutual and collaborative living, I found better food through a better relationship with the more-than-human world.

Tomorrow during our second session of Fantastic Beasts we will start to expand our thinking about cross-species relationships. We have been so far considering a single species as our companion: an earwig, an oriole, a worm. This Sunday we will discuss moving outwards with those relationships. Consider the symbiosis between grain crops and humans: the stalks are dried and used as straw, the grains are fermented for bread and beer, opportunistic birds begin to swirl around cultivated fields, and colonizing fungus is used for mystery traditions. A single relationship always melts into a web of community whether you like it or not.

To close this letter, please enjoy these two pictures, taken only a day apart. The first is my own wrist, seen as a landscape by an unidentified caterpillar. The second is my father’s wrist, similarly braceleted, similarly enjoyed as a playground my a mysterious bug. What a gift, to be surrounded by strangers brave enough to introduce themselves.

A question to reflect on: Who among the non-human has been knocking on your door? Who have you yet to let inside?