Creation and destruction. Life-giving and life-taking. The nature of fire has been on my mind lately. Orange and yellow tongues of flame lapping at the edges of a barn or scampering across a grassy field might spark fear in the heart of the average human, but to many plants it is beneficial if not vital. Prior to beginning The Trespasser’s Garden, I was familiar with the rejuvenating effects of wildfires on prairie ecosystems; generally viewing scorched earth as a clean slate of sorts where native plants could reclaim lost territory. I have discovered, however, that while there are many natives that benefit from regular burns, several invasives crave fire as well.
I now find myself attempting to capture in a woodcut the ecstatic energy of fire as it sweeps across a field of sweet clover. An aggressive, bushy legume from Europe, sweet clover’s seeds remain viable underground for thirty years or more – providing this prairie invader an endless store of eager new soldiers to take the place of those who fall to the flames.
Alas, the ecological fix is not so easy, the path not so linear, the truth not so black and white. Ultimately, I am left to ponder the indiscriminating aspects of fire. While it may not care what it burns, it also does not care what grows up in its wake.