December 17, 2013
Every living thing has a purpose in the world, plants make it possible for animals to live, and animals make it possible for plants to live. Predators control population, smaller animals and songbirds help spread plant seeds, and insects pollinate plants. It's a working system, or, almost a working system. There is a very important piece missing, and not many people realize it's missing because it is so far detached from our society. Any guesses? It's you. The missing piece is us, human kind, the caretakers. As I said before, every living thing has a purpose in the natural world. Ours has been uprooted and forgotten with society. If you were to look back in time at any indigenous culture, you would see that people made caretaking part of their everyday lives.

It's important to know what caretaking is in the first place, so let's start there. Imagine that it's a beautiful spring day and you're walking through a natural area near your home, even if that's just a park or a couple trees along the sidewalk. As you're walking past a tree, you stop, and see that every branch is covered in bright green buds. That's normal right? Well, it is, but it actually shouldn't be. Now, in the mind of a caretaker you carefully and gently remove up to a third of all the buds. As you remove each one, you find ones that are closely grouped together or blocking the growth of other buds, mindful of what you're doing every time. That seems weird to do, and it seems like it's hurting the tree, but neither could be further from the truth. In doing that you know that the healthiest buds will now grow, and the tree will be much healthier because it is no longer sending energy from the roots into as many buds. Maybe you know a use for those buds, and thank the tree (yes, thank the tree, I'll get to that another day) before taking them. Before you leave, you stop and look at the tree again, removing any dead leaves you see, because even though they are dead they still drain energy from the tree.

Hopefully that gave you a vague but important idea of what caretaking is. Moving fallen sticks off low growing plants so they can continue to grow, removing dead branches, and cutting away stalks of plants that are too big and overcrowded are all some of the many caretaking actions humans can take. When I first learned about this, I was confused. I thought that nature works perfectly and takes care of itself. I mean, nobody was doing anything and everything was still living right? Well, when I got older I realized that we are supposed to be a component to how the world works on its own. Even after realizing that, I still told myself that plants were doing fine, and caretaking wasn't necessary. So that's when I did an experiment, I put some time (really only a couple minutes) into my daily walks through some woods nearby to caretake one small section near the path. With the time of just one year I saw that the area I'd caretaked was thriving with life, and was more beautiful than anything around it. The other side looked dead compared to it, even though it hadn't changed too much from a year before when I viewed it as normal thriving life. Just a couple minutes difference a day made that much of an impact. That experiment gave me a big perspective of how important caretaking is, and if we brought it back into our society, the earth would look like it was meant to because the puzzle of life wouldn't have a missing piece anymore.

So, my hope is that after reading this you might be inspired to try bringing caretaking into your life. In your own backyard, on your walk to school or work, anywhere you are, there's a tiny thing you could do. You probably would never end up spending more than a couple minutes a day, and yet it makes an unbelievable impact.

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

96Caretaker said...
Dec. 31, 2013 at 2:13 am
Hi, very nice essay.  I'm writing a business proposal to start a caretaker training academy as an alternative education to college.  I was wondering if I can have permission to quote your essay for the proposal?
AngelaAxl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm
Yes, of course! I hope it goes well for you!
AuntieAw said...
Dec. 27, 2013 at 4:42 pm
What a wonderful way to express our role in the upkeep of out world. Nicely written artcle about an important idea. 
AngelaAxl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm
Thank you!
live_luv_laugh_inspire said...
Dec. 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm
Very well written, gave it a 5! I like how you emphasize that we really can make an impact. Good going! Please check out my poem "Summer Bliss."
AngelaAxl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm
Thank you! I'm going to look at your poem now!
Kcha replied...
Dec. 28, 2013 at 12:03 am
A thoughtful reminder that we all matter, and should take part of the dance! Thank you Angela :)
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