Down to Earth - by Madison Co. Master Gardeners


The Enormous Power of One
June 10, 2016
What a difference just one person can make in the life of another human being, or the life of a community for that matter.
This column is a personal account of just such a life influencing mine, as well as the larger community.   While the events recounted here are specific to particular people and a particular place, the power evidenced is available to us all through our own “power of one.”
We face many complex problems in our modern world.  Often the problems seem so large and so insurmountable that our human nature shrinks from any action at all.  We cannot muster the courage to take on Goliath.  Yet, as this story illustrates, each of us individually, and by our example to others, can do a very great deal.
I came to know my mentor by attending a Master Gardener tour of her land about 15 years ago.  We toured 3 different prairie reconstructions on a ridge near Peru, where I saw plants whose names I had never heard before and which I’d never seen before.  I was one among probably 20 fellow gardeners and I didn’t know a soul.  Our tour guide spoke with quiet intensity about each of the treatments we were viewing, and I was in a foreign land of plants.  I had been gardening for decades, going through a series of botanical interest areas—roses, daylilies, alpine plants, conifers, and unique trees native to the Appalachians, mostly—only to discover yet another plant world right here in Madison County that I knew virtually nothing about.  I was hooked.
Because of her influence and suggestion, I joined the Iowa Prairie Network and attended most annual conferences thereafter.  I read widely.  I got my own private tour of her land, and she reciprocated by walking mine with me.  Always pointing out plants of note, telling stories about how this species relates to that species, and from time to time repeating the line, “free the oaks!”  Over time, friendship took root and synergy developed.  She talked of burning her woods as though that was the most ordinary activity in the world.  I attended a fire conference and took my husband to a demonstration burn hosted by SIOSA (Southern Iowa Oak Savanna Alliance).  My reluctant husband and I hired a contractor to thin and burn our woodland to “free the oaks” while we anticipated what nature had in store for us.  That next spring I found several blooming plants of Showy Orchid.  I swallowed the hook, and so did he.
She showed me the scourge of teasel that she had been fighting for over a decade.  I began noticing it everywhere.  I could hardly look at the roadsides as I rode or drove because each time I would be horrified yet again by the relentless encroachment of this new-to-me invasive species.  On drives back to my home farm in MO, I traced the march of teasel along I 70.  I learned to stay quiet about what I saw because I made a truly unpleasant driving companion!
The synergy we have led to the formation of For Lands Sake! in the county.  The time must have been right because the community of stewards has grown exponentially since it began nearly 3 years ago.  Now I belong to a community and watch the influence of my mentor spread ever more widely to embrace our heritage. 
One person living a life of purpose, making daily decisions about how to care for her land, how to bring history to life, how to enhance the vitality in her community, and how to befriend people she meets one at a time.
Yes, teasel still marches on, but not on her land and not on roadsides near me.  I make sure of that, just as she does.  Each of us, using our “power of one,” can have far-reaching influence by sharing our passions, living our values, and letting others into our lives.  In this way we can truly address the seemingly insurmountable problems of our times. 

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