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One Touch of Nature

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
– William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Troilus and Cressida


    …Just the way things went, I never had a chance to plant a tree before; but about nine years ago I hiked across the field behind our house to visit the abandoned tree nursery now grown wild.

I was able to stretch up high enough to pick a few cherries. I enjoyed the fruit and brought one of the pits back home with me. We have a small garden but after thinking it through carefully, I poked the cherry pit into a spot where I figured a tree would have room to grow and forgot about it…

Next spring when we cleared the weeds, lo and behold, there was a tiny cherry seedling. Something had gone right!

Cherry grew year after year but by the time it was about two or three it began to be attacked by these tiny black things that threatened to eat all of its leaves. I was very diligent about picking them off and since Cherry wasn’t too big yet it wasn’t a problem. But the black things continued to return each season no matter how diligent I was and I finally learned that they were called Pear or Cherry slugs. They are the larva of a type of sawfly, Caliroa cerasi, a nearly worldwide “pest.”

Online advice for dealing with the problem ranged from using wood ash (I didn’t have any), lime or pyrethrum spray to much nastier things. So I just kept picking the slugs off and waiting till I could find a solution that I felt comfortable with.

Then, three years ago we decided to attract Chickadees to our garden by planting one of their favourite foods—Black Sunflower seeds. Spring came and they were planted. And come August as the seeds were ripening, the cherry slugs showed up again right on schedule. They were now on the verge of becoming a serious problem because the tree was growing bigger quite fast and that meant a lot more leaves especially those on branches now beyond my reach.

The Chickadees, having by now figured out that we had Black Sunflower seeds for them, had begun to show up regularly and spend a long time—well, as long a time as a Chickadee stays anywhere—harvesting those seeds. And when they’d had their fill of Black sunflower seeds, what happened next was something I hadn’t at all anticipated. They hopped over to the Cherry where they discovered what was apparently another of their favourite foods—Cherry slugs!

My worries about Cherry slugs were over! And in addition, I suddenly became aware of what it feels like to be a functioning member of an Eco-system—FANTASTIC!

Let me sum it up…First of all, I could stop worrying about my tree. Second, the Chickadees were super efficient at getting those slugs. Third, the Chickadees benefitted by having more to eat; and Fourth, I now no longer think of Cherry slugs as a pest but as an important part of the Whole. And fifth, we had the experience of participating in the Whole in a way that meant more than words can express.

So what does this have to do with music?

Well, nothing directly, other than to say that my inspiration for most of my songwriting comes from nature. I already have one song inspired by a Cherry tree (not recorded yet) and I think we’ll have one soon about our friends the Chickadees called, Chickadee Samba.

In the meantime, we just finished recording The Ballad of the Salmon People, a song about the life cycle of the Salmon, which you can sample here as an mp3. The fully mastered recording is due out later this year.

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Everyone enjoyed the rest of your music and singing and seeing everyone up dancing is a sight I'll always remember. Wishing you all the very best,                       Jesse Pringle, Go Go Grannies Co-coordinator, British Columbia

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