The voluntary spring

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In the partly shadowed bed on the south side of our house, volunteer strawberries blossom and begin to fruit. We had purchased and planted their parents a few years ago, but the offspring have since spread and regenerated on their own.

Given the harshness of the recent winter, it's impressive that these plants would revive at all. But with green leaves and white flowers ranging about, they have returned.

Most of the florae that flourish in and around our habitat are, in fact, volunteers. Proportionately, the many seeds and seedlings that we insert intentionally in vegetable beds pale in comparison to the numerous flowers, grasses, weeds, herbs, and edible plants that rise up with the arrival of spring. 

According to the dictionary, a "volunteer" plant is one not deliberately sown. From that perspective, each year our strawberries achieve a more unmixed, volunteer status. From that standpoint, the garden triumphs as a teeming, surging voluntary enterprise.

More broadly, much of what makes a community or family habitat flourish is also voluntary — unprompted by government action, unsecured by binding contract.

Parents care for their children. Neighbors swap stories and look out for one another. Friends exchange greetings. Citizens converse about issues. Kids hang out, run, play, and liven up their places.

Such small-scale, informal goings on aren't usually labeled "volunteer." Yet they surely embody what Oxford's definition calls "activities undertaken freely."

The resurgent strawberries, unfolding fruit blossoms, and renewed neighborhood liveliness all reflect springtime's spontaneity.

Richard Kordesh

Oak Park

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