Friday, January 8, 2010

Carl Jung, Boy Plant Geek

In my ongoing quest to read more and watch TV less, I've been hitting a lot of bases simultaneously. I've already mentioned my first year with Henry Mitchell, but another tome I've been slowly working through for a while now is Carl Jung's 1961 semi-autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It's a truly eccentric approach to memoir, with no false advertising in its title. Hard facts are downplayed in favor of dreams about divine turds and such.

At the very end of "School Years," the chapter on Jung's boyhood, I came across this intriguing and characteristically wacky passage as our hero is pondering his future academic studies:

Plants interested me too, but not in a scientific sense. I was attracted to them for a reason I could not understand, and with a strong feeling that they ought not to be pulled up and dried. They were living beings which had meaning only so long as they were growing and flowering--a hidden, secret meaning, one of God's thoughts. They were to be regarded with awe and contemplated with philosophical wonderment. What the biologist had to say about them was interesting, but it was not the essential thing. ... How were plants related to the Christian religion or to the negation of the Will, for example? ... They obviously partook of the divine state of innocence which it was better not to disturb. By way of contrast, insects were denatured plants--flowers and fruits which had presumed to crawl about on legs or stilts and to fly around with wings like the petals of blossoms, and busied themselves preying on plants. Because of this unlawful activity they were condemned to mass executions, June bugs and caterpillars being the especial targets of such punitive expeditions. My "sympathy with all creatures" was strictly limited to warm-blooded animals. The only exceptions among the cold-blooded vertebrates were frogs and toads, because of their resemblance to human beings.

Wild! There's a lot in that paragraph to mull over. I admit I have never thought much about the role of plants in regard to the negation of the Will, for one, nor I have ever considered insects as winged flowers. Then again, I'm not a late-19th century Swiss kid with a preacher dad. On the other hand, I think he's on to something with that business about the "hidden, secret meaning" of plants. Hard to pin down--but then that's what makes it secret.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hail and Farewell

I thought sure I had taken pictures of this poor dear during the two-plus years it was thriving. Alas, this stark snapshot of its dismal end is all I can find:

May not look like much now, but behold its humble origin story: I am pretty sure it was an impatiens (what's the singular? impatien?), but whatever it was, it was an extra seedling that I had no room for in the yard. Rather than toss it out, I potted it up. Thinking it was an annual, I assumed if I was lucky it might stick around for the summer of 2008, maybe a bit of the fall, and then croak. But no! It just kept going and going, blooming now and then throughout the winter of 08/09 and then the summer of 09. I forgot it for weeks at a time (despite the fact that one thing I have learned in my gardening phase is that the smaller the container, the more often you have to water) and still it soldiered on. Looks like I finally ignored it a wee bit too long. It's bounced back from the edge of extinction more often than I care to admit, but something tells me it's finally time to say goodbye.

At the risk of revealing myself as the hippie flake I am apparently evolving into, a part of my garden, way in the back where visitors seldom venture, is designated as a kind of cemetery for favorite plants. (Most just land in one of the more conventional compost piles.) I make up a little 20-second ceremony on the spot, then drop them onto the ground where I know they'll eventually either break down or be eaten by some undiscriminating critter.

So goodbye, Little Impatiens (Or Whatever You Were) That Could. You will be missed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Attention, internet-savvy deer

Appearances to the contrary, this is NOT a delicious blueberry:

Please share this information with the rest of your herd.
Many thanks, and happy belated holidays,
Ron and Don

Friday, January 1, 2010

Brand new year, same old resolution

Hey, I never said I was a regular post-er. But the new year brings with it a renewed promise (to myself) to blog every day, at one site or another of the half dozen or so I have a hand (at this point, a pinky finger) in.

It's not like I haven't been accumulating months' worth of potential posts all this time. Case in point, I've spent the last year reading the appropriate month's chapter of Henry Mitchell essays, something I intend to keep doing for at least the next two years, since he has at least two more books organized by month. (Is that wording clear? The concept is, these wonderful, laugh-out-loud-funny collections of the late, legendary writer's "Earthman" columns for the Washington Post are organized into 12 chapters apiece, allowing the reader to experience them by season. "January" thus contains essays like "In Winter's Adversity, the Hardy Gardener Flourishes," while "December" wraps up with "In Gardening, Timing is Key," which anticipates the annual bloomtimes of snowdrops and other spring bulbs.) So there's plenty to read even when the action outside has slowed down. I love this as an organizing principle, and am beginning to wish more books were laid out according to the calendar. Perhaps I'd even read notoriously long ones if I had a plan to follow.

On New Year's Eve I finished On Gardening, and on New Year's Day I started One Man's Garden. They are every bit as entertaining (and sometimes actually informative) as I'd heard. In theory, I'd be sharing the many thoughts inspired by these marvelous columns as they occur to me, but no such luck, at least with book one.

Brutal honesty is best, is it not? That's one takeaway from Mitchell--he never hesitates to admit when some brilliant horticultural goal of his has failed miserably. So instead, I'll quote the last line of OG, which has a kind of New Years resolution feel to it:

The great trick, I am now sure, is to flow with the tide.

Which is exactly what I strive to do, in cyberspace, in the garden, in my library, and everywhere else. Happy 2010 to you and yours.