Monday, March 12, 2007

On Being Mother Nature's Pimp...

The smash of people against me was suffocating. The large congregation of flower enthusiasts moved in a synchronized dance I couldn't seem to get down, the steps too intricate, the music at too low a decibel. Guards and rent-a-cops shout at the tide of people, directing them to lines and ticket counters. Others are soaring high above on the magic moving stairs, and no one seems to grasp the concept that if you actually walk up the moving stairs, you reach the top faster.

A whiff of bad breath is followed by an overwhelming honey-suckle fragrance as people all charge in opposite directions with no regard for the obstacles in their way, be it people or thing.

An exchange of paper green money for a bright red stub seems unfair, but I am shoved forth to the magic stairs, and soon, between the Indian couple with their overwhelmingly bright attire and the woman dragging three screaming children on what they seem to think is a trip to a demonic underworld, we are climbing above the chaos of the ground floor to seek the chaos of the upper floor.

Then it becomes visible--a giant archway of rock adorned with plants, flowers, shrubs, and fungus which means only one thing--we're at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

We moved from display to display, wheezing at the putrid stench of hundreds of Philadelphians crammed into what should have been an amazingly large space... A pond here, a fountain there, gasps and oohs at orchids (the most over-rated flower of the century), glances and disregard for the impatiens sitting unpretentiously to the left of the Celtic statues. Moments of clarity come and go across the myriads of faces as they each find that special plant, flower, or display that has completed an image in their mind of what a little man-handling and fertilizer could never provide...

A dinner banquet set for twelve beneath a stone out-cropping reminiscent of stone henge, without the bronze hue, sets the stage for the wedding reception only seen in my dreams. Bouquets of roses cascade from vases of crystal, babies breath peeking through between the blossoms, knowing its second-class status brings it to all the best parties. Lillies compete with daffodils for the lime-light on the backs of chairs...

A Koi pond, complete with Koi, splash among the Lilly pads as Asian grasses dip their blades gently into the ripples of water, hoping it isn't too cold. Hostas cover the bases of trees afraid of revealing their roots. Azaleas cower in the shadows of the larger cousins, the rhododendrons, harboring secret desires of one day over-arching them, and seeing how they like being so short. Fountains jet water into the air, and willows and cherry's grasp at the life-giving droplets to wear them as a woman adorns crystal earrings and pearl necklaces, light reflecting, catching gleams in the eyes of the onlookers. Tulips seductively pucker up while the creeping phlox beguiles with the simplicity of angelic white carpets...

Then we are in the shops, cubicles and rectangles harshly coinciding with the natural, soft, gentle curves of mother nature dominating these thousands of square feet behind us. Copper wind chimes, silver vases, terra cotta pots and ritzy tomato cages (for those bored with green wire) all jump out into the aisles. Glass windows, wooden chairs, plastic swings, metal bird feeders--the man-made objects scream and rail against their mannishness, their anti-mother nature sculpted edges, crying for the attention that comes so natural to the poppies, the wisteria, the morning glory.

Shopkeepers shout the prices of their wares, much like the baker and blacksmith of colonial times. "Roses, 25 for $9.99!," "Wilow branches, buy 1 get 1!" People swarm here and there, looking for the objects that will make their yards, their gardens look like the displays they have been molesting enviously with their eyes all morning and afternoon. Planters, hoses, mulches, soils, flowers, seeds, bulbs--the rape of mother nature has a price, and she will be yours to command with enough Washington's and Jackson's.

A glimmer of light breaks through the windows on the far side, and in the corner, I spy a small, seemingly much-maligned stand. A small woman sits perched on her stool, surrounded by a sea of green and brown. She smiles and waves--Who, me?, and she smiles and nods. The sea of people seems to move gently out of my way as I move toward the corner. A few other souls seem to be captivated by the green, the natural sunlight from the warehouse window bringing forth from the leaves in the booth what man-made light had been trying to replicate for the past several hours...

"Bamboo," she says with a smile. I nod, not wanting to be mistaken for a simpleton in this colony of botanical knowledge. The slender, sturdy bark somehow softens the edges of the square shop. White buckets tilt out slightly, seeming to say, "See what I have? Go ahead, pick them up, caress the leaves..." I find myself marvelling at the simplicity of the bamboo against the orgasm of colors that has been assaulting my eyes for hours on end. The sequential ridges, the perpendicular stalks...

So I bought four of the little guys.

I, too, pimp mother nature, as is my nature as a human. But somehow, taming the wild into design, into shapes, into categories, allows me to feel in control. By taking the beauty I find in the wildest parts of the world, and placing them just so in some aspect of my decor or my landscaping, helps make it all seem a little more--just a little more, mind you--bearable. Ownable. Manageable.

Beautiful.

We like the wild places. But we love taming the wild places even more. It is our curse and our gift, our blessing and our punishment. We are of mother nature, but we want to be so much more.

And by placing four small, seemingly fragile bamboo shoots in a faux stone pot complete with river pebbles, I assert my humanness onto the very thing that made me... Hoping for balance, striving for equilibrium, all the while asserting my control...

But I wouldn't trade gardening for the world...

(Oh, the irony of it all...)

1 comment:

mom said...

hello jason! how cute that plant looks! :) that is the same thing aunt dee had or has. i am not sure what happened with hers. i will have to ask her. i don't think she has a green thumb like you seem to have. does it grow in water or what? does it need low light? well, whatever, it looks like it is an interesting plant. i know the plant i got to help put some life into the spot near my fish is doing just fine! :) i have no idea what it is but its green and looks happy where it is. my fish i think like it also. :) i can't believe my fish are still going! after i realized they don't eat like dogs my fish seem to be living longer now. :) the one little one you gave me i think grew a bit. well, the flower show seemed like it was wonderful. i am glad you enjoyed it! love and prayers