Natives and Invasives

Gina waa dluxan gud ad kwaagid – “Everything depends on everything else.” This traditional saying in the Haida language is a wonderfully simple distillation of the law of interconnection.

In this moment, I am hiking up a trail that encircles an area of blue-green claystone in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The Haida wisdom echos around my experience because this part of the trail is sandwiched between a rancher’s field, with associated invasive weeds, and beautiful native plants. To the south, natural wildflowers are framed by towering claystone cliffs. To the north, ranch land directly abuts the federally protected area. It is impossible for one not to effect the other. At my feet, native purple sage (Salvia dorii) with its lavender blooms and minty aroma is surrounded by invasive cheat grass and medusahead rye.

I walk this line between invasives and natives and wonder, “Which one am I?” I am probably both. I literally have a foot in two worlds. On the one hand, I feel connected to the earth and aspire to honor her myriad expressions and my part in them. On the other hand, I arrived at the trailhead in a gas guzzling small truck built of nature-raping ingredients—not to mention the non-recyclable synthetic components of my backpack, clothing, and footwear. I live in contradiction while trying to prioritize my native wisdom over the ignorant actions of my invasive self.

Ignorance and wisdom are two sides of the same coin. If everything depends on everything else, both sides interpenetrate. Invasives grow equally alongside natives. Every specie has to come from somewhere and, if one does not dominate, every plant and animal may eventually find its niche in a balanced and equitable way. Invasive plants over time may become “naturalized” and are often integrated in botanical texts alongside native species.

I pray that we humans may find an integrated niche, free from dominance. I pray we may find a way of adapting to a new time and environmental circumstance. Everything comes and goes, arises and decays. Everything depends on everything else.

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