21 July 2006

There's rosemary; that's for remembrance. . . .

Clearly I haven’t felt much like blogging away, so this entry will be in the nature of an entr’acte. I refer you to The Standing Room, which has collected a garland of web tributes to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. I've been moved by the number of people who only saw her once yet were moved indelibly by her. The world is even poorer without her. I can’t say much more about her loss. (http://www.thestandingroom.com/blog/2006/07/lorraine_hunt_l.html#comments)

I’ve been working a lot in my garden, which is therapeutic. Not so much in a “restorative power of Nature” way; it only takes a few allergy attacks (which have been intense this year) to disillusion me there; maybe the views around Grasmere were more sublime or soothing, but I can’t really do the Wordsworth thing. Cutting stuff back is therapeutic, and there’s a lot of that to be done. For someone with problems dealing with death, I seem to have few qualms about causing it in other realms. But Nature returns the favor: the laurel and the rose have no more value for the universe than the tumor and the virus; to make the point explicit, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson can die at an age when she had so much more to give and in the same week Ken Lay, who ruined the lives of thousands, can die and escape whatever semblance of earthly justice was coming his way, and the universe goes on.

I have a beautiful (I’d say this is an anthropomorphizing statement, but Nature has to appeal to us as much as to the bees for propagation) passion flower vine, but it was growing in the wrong direction and starting to choke my lemon tree. (Yes, I get to choose which direction is the right one. When I bought my house I had some trees cut down, among them a redwood, having learned from my childhood home that a redwood is just not the right tree for a small backyard. When my co-workers found out, it was as if I’d announced I’d gone into church and spat in the holy water font. There’s something about redwoods. No one cared that I planted a fig tree in its place, and no one cared at all that a pine tree was cut down at the same time. One guy said that I was just “imposing my aesthetic” on the place; I didn’t bother to point out that that’s the definition of a garden. There’s a reason Candide ends by “cultivating his garden” as opposed to “reclaiming the wilderness” or “lying down moaning.”) If Bernini designed a flower, it would look like the passionflower: an amazing, energetic mass of twists and curls and tendrils, with flowers exploding into purple aureoles and the various pistils or stamens or whatnot jutting out in an aggressive way. I had to disillusion a friend of mine about the type of passion referred to: the purple is the crown of thorns, and there are other parts that represent the three nails and the five wounds. Of course the common denominator is the word “passion” the root of which is “suffering.” It’s an interesting interpretation to put on this flower, as if it needed some spiritual link to explain it. (There’s also a charming legend about the flower of the rosemary, which is said to be light blue because on the flight into Egypt Mary laid her cloak on it.) Perhaps these tales are just part of the human need to find a story of redemption from the loss that surrounds us.

I have a rosemary plant as well, but I haven’t yet faced cutting it back, since I feel I should be doing something useful with it instead of just tossing it into the compost bin. But I’ve had to pull up a lot of grass and weeds (which are, as the definition goes, just plants we think are in the wrong place) and as I do so I’ve inevitably torn up some of the nearby sage and rosemary leaves as well. I’ve enjoyed their scent on my hands. Requiescat in pace.

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