I like living places where most of the plants are shorter than I am.
I depend on a view of the mountains to navigate in downtown Boise, where the streets follow the river as it meanders through the old part of town. I live up on the Bench, away from the claustrophobic riparian area, and where the well-behaved street grid follows the section lines.
Working out on the Sagebrush Sea, I navigate by the solemn Owyhee Mountains and the almost heartbreakingly beautiful Lost River Range. I wake up in a forest of sagebrush, which shrinks when I get out of my sleeping bag and stand up. Sagebrush is a self-effacing plant that hides in plain sight over much of the West and doesn’t block my view of the mountains.
My friend Caitlin lives in northwest North Dakota, surrounded by canola fields. She posted a photo of one, stretching to the horizon, on her Facebook page. Below it her friends debated the usefulness and advisability of trees. I contributed, “I’m Cindy and I’m afraid of trees.”
Caitlin’s friend Nancy tried shock therapy with a link to a photograph of a tree she considers a friend.
I clicked on the link and a tree is the size of an apartment building appeared. It had grasping, hungry branches ready to catch and imprison unsuspecting passersby. It waited patiently for the opportunity to drop limbs on top of chattering, laughing children on their way to school. The tree would die fulfilled and ascend instantly to the highest level of Tree Heaven if it managed to topple over on top of a crowd that had gathered beneath it to shelter from a sudden thunderstorm.
Even if none of the tree’s nefarious hopes ever come to fruition, it still blocks the view for several city blocks. It flatly refuses to let other plants grow underneath it by greedily using up all the sunlight that reaches it. And it practices a pernicious form of spatial hegemony as it dominates a large part of the otherwise peaceful town of Thomasville, GA.
Concerned about what sort of town would allow this danger, I investigated. Mapquest showed me a town with streets laid out in untidy, vaguely radiating spokes that look like a web spun by a spider on LSD. At an elevation of 279 feet there are no mountains nearby for navigating, even if you could see past the tree.
I’ll stay safe here in Boise, where most of the plants are shorter than I am.