August 23, 2006

Beautiful weeding, beautiful dunes.

I'm not a good weeder myself. If the spirit moves me, I'll pull a weed or two, but I'm more likely to reinterpret the weeds as "ground cover" or "native plants." Nevertheless, I feel quite touched by these Japanese weeders, weeding the ancient sand dunes of Tottori:
From the Sahara to the Gobi Desert, governments elsewhere are planting trees in a struggle to check expanding deserts. But officials here are focusing their efforts on trying to preserve Tottori’s landmark tourist spot, grain by grain.

So early Saturday, on a morning already humid at 6 a.m., some 40 volunteers were moving up a gently sloping hill on their hands and knees, filling plastic bags with grass they had uprooted with their hands....

“There’s the fear that the balance of the sand dunes may have collapsed,” said Toshiaki Hotta, 50, who oversees this site for the prefectural government. “The sand dunes are tens of thousands of years old, so we human beings can’t have our own way. If we stop weeding, it will become grassland in no time.”

Especially beautiful is the way the dunes, once seen as a wasteland, have gained stature and meaning through literature:
It was in 1923 when Takeo Arishima, a novelist with a strong following among women, came to lecture in Tottori and visited the dunes. Mr. Nishio said Arishima was the first to refer to this area as sand dunes, in a poem in which he wrote about the deep misery he felt while standing in the middle of the dunes....

Kobo Abe is said to have visited a desertification center at Tottori University to conduct research for “The Woman in the Dunes,” a story about a man who falls into a sand pit where a strange woman dwells alone.

The comments on this post could go many places. You might want to discuss you own gardening attitudes or the film "The Woman in the Dunes." Let me also suggest thinking of other places that became beautiful because of the way they figured into a work of literature. And is there anyplace that was considered beautiful but came to be seen as ugly because of literature?

7 comments:

Editor Theorist said...

People try to keep things the same, probably because it reminds them of their childhood.

Traditional English landscape was an unintended bye-product of traditional English farming - yet people are trying to keep the landscape the same when the farming has changed irrevocably, or disappeared altogether.

It is understandable, but sad.

David said...

Sand dune are, by nature, alive. Standing in them, whether the Sahara, Death Valley/Glamis, Ca., is a moving experience. Depth perception is gone and footprints disappear in the first breeze.

The life cycle of these moving creatures begins simultaneously at the encroaching face and the retreating rear in a process that goes on for millenia!

Dunes are a slow sister to Glaciers.

PatCA said...

Why did they mention African desertification? A cousin of mine spent his Peace Corps stint planting trees in West Africa because desertification there means famine!

What I get out of this article is that nostalgia is a luxury. Only the affluent can aestheticize their physical existence. This is well and good, but not a path open to Africa just now.

Bissage said...

Weeding the garden that is the "ancient sand dunes of Tottori" is a piece of cake compared to trying to pull Ground Ivy out of your Periwinkle.

Not that I'm bitching or anything.

Okay, I am.

To make up for it, here's a link justified by nothing more than the similarity of the word "Tottori" to the word "Totoro."

Townleybomb said...

I used to live about an hour from the dunes. They're quite impressive-- completely different from the rocky little beaches found on most of the coast up there.

The effect is somewhat lessened by the fact that you can hangglide off the top of the biggest one for five bucks, though.

sparky said...

in North America, the woods, once we'd cut them down enough to no longer be frightened.

i think of the sea as being in a transitional moment in the human viewfinder. we can see it as cradle of life or as destroyer.

chuck b. said...

When I think of dunes, I remember a stop on a roadtrip at White Sands Nat'l Monument in Alamogordo, NM.