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Today I was sitting on a bench at an Amish nursery near Loogootee, IN, listening to a couple of people enthusing over the flowers they found. Anyone that excited over flowers must be a decent person. Of course, I’m sure there are senators or defense department officials or CIA agents or private equity investors who enjoy gardening. Maybe. Theoretically. But I think it works as a rule of thumb.

A love for growing things seems to be one of those enthusiasms that come with age. Perhaps there something about the patience and humility required that does not fit well with the zeal and vigor of youth. Or maybe the desire to nurture life in some of its beautiful and fragile forms only comes to those who have been beaten down a little.

Treebeard was very disappointed in Saruman. He could have been so much more. At first he seemed eager to learn but Treebeard noticed that he never reciprocated (an essential feature of any relationship with nature). Rather he seemed only to take. Even in those days, Treebeard speculates, he may have been turning to evil.

He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.

Another rule of thumb: never trust a person who sees the natural world as a means to their own ends.

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